Jobcentres failing to help small businesses

The Jobcentre Plus network needs urgent reform if it is to combat rising unemployment and to help small firms recruit new employees.

The call came from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) following a poll of 2,500 of its members.

The survey found that 34 per cent of respondents believe Jobcentre Plus is ineffective or very ineffective. Almost half (49 per cent) did not know whether the jobseekers’ centres worked or not.

Fewer than 20 per cent of small businesses said they used Jobcentre Plus to recruit, preferring instead costly advertising and recruitment services.

In response, the FSB has put together a series of proposals that would better align Jobcentres to the needs of both small firms and the rising numbers of those out of work.

Specifically, the FSB recommended that the government should establish a more coherent relationship between Jobcentre Plus, Businesslink and the skills boards in order to create a sharper focus on the sort of training needed for local employment.

Each Jobcentre should have its own dedicated small business manager who would understand the specific circumstances and requirements of small firms.

Research should be carried out into how the funding allocated to unemployment, training and business support initiatives is spent.

And the Jobcentre Plus website should be overhauled so that it is fit for 21st-century online recruitment.

John Wright, the FSB’s national chairman, said: “FSB members feel let down by a service which appears to offer them precious little for the £3.36 billion Jobcentre Plus spends each year.”

Mr Wright pointed out that small businesses are the country’s key employers, offering a larger proportion of jobs to those who have previously been unemployed than big businesses.

But he added: “The FSB is concerned the lion’s share of funding from Jobcentre Plus currently goes to large companies and multinationals, which would still provide training if public funding were not available.

“Small businesses are big employers, and, with 57 per cent without employees keen to employ people in the future, they must be given all the support they need to create jobs and so effectively tackle the problem of rising unemployment head-on.”