£1.3bn to help jobless back into work

A £1.3 billion package of measures to help the growing number of unemployed find new jobs was announced, including an expansion of a "rapid response" service to advise on vacancies and careers.

Faced with rising unemployment and predictions that the total could top three million as the UK heads for recession, Alistair Darling conceded that workers were increasingly worried about losing jobs and the difficulty of finding new ones.

"I am determined to do what I can to ease these concerns and to help those who are made redundant move quickly into a new job.

"The evidence shows that the longer people are out of work, the more difficult it becomes to re-enter the labour market," the Chancellor told MPs.

He announced a number of measures, including an expansion of the Rapid Response Service to include all redundancies, not just those at the largest workplaces.

Money will also be given to help retrain workers facing redundancy through a so-called Train to Gain initiative.

Local Employment Partnerships, under which firms work closely with local jobcentres to fill job vacancies, will be expanded to include the short term unemployed as well as those who have been out of work for long periods.

An initiative to help fill the half a million job vacancies across the UK, chaired by the Prime Minister, was also announced.

Mr Darling said 20 of the country's largest employers, including the Royal Mail, Tesco and Centrica had agreed to take part in the National Employment Partnerships.

Extra funding will also be given to jobcentres to deal with the increased number of jobseekers and benefit claimants.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, welcomed the announcements, adding: "People need to wake up to understand that the UK must either invest to keep people in work or spend money on unemployment."

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