Some 1.6 million people have moved into work having received support from work coaches, and hundreds of thousands of jobseekers have been supported by our other Plan for Jobs programmes, such as kickstart. It is clear that this plan is working; unemployment is now expected to peak at less than half of what was initially predicted.
Unemployment in West Berkshire has fallen in every month since April, in no small part thanks to the apprenticeship levy and the kickstart scheme. However, among the over-55s who lost their job in the pandemic the picture is more mixed. Can my hon. Friend set out what the next stage of the Plan for Jobs will do to target that group, particularly given their risk of long-term unemployment?
Yes, I can. My hon. Friend is right; unemployment is at 3.5% in her constituency, as against the 5% average. On people aged 50 to 64 who unfortunately lose their job and find a return to work less likely, this spending review announced an enhanced 50-plus offer worth more than £20 million to ensure that that cohort of the workforce receive that support to remain in work and benefit from living those fuller working lives. That is in addition to the other interventions across the whole of the working age group.
Right now, in this country, about 1 million children are growing up in long-term workless households. Does my hon. Friend agree that the measures the Chancellor took in the Budget last week to boost the national minimum wage and the work allowance, and to lower the universal credit withdrawal rate when people move into work, mean that we have the best opportunity in more than a generation to really bear down on long-term unemployment and improve the life chances of children growing up in homes where there is no role model of someone going out to work every day?
I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend, who has been a champion in this area, throughout his experience in government and in his work now as Chair of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs. In addition to what he has set out, we responded to the call to raise the national living wage. It may interest him to know that the April 2022 increase will mean that a full-time worker’s annual salary will have increased by more than £5,000 since the national living wage was introduced, when he was in government, in April 2016.
I recently visited the newly opened jobcentre in Knowle to support people back to work, and I have previously been chair of the all-party group on apprenticeships. I cannot fathom why the Government are abolishing BTECs, which are a crucial bridge for young people in Bristol South. Has the Treasury done an assessment of abolishing BTECs, and will the Government reconsider?
The hon. Lady will know of the Government’s investment in T-levels and the additional investment last week in apprenticeships, as well as a number of other interventions that the Chancellor has worked tirelessly with employers’ organisations and trade unions on to develop the workforce and opportunities over the past 18 months.