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The Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response

Issue date

The Jobcentre Plus Rapid Response Service

third edition

Introduction

When a company announces that it is considering redundancies the workers face a stressful and uncertain time. Then, if the redundancies go ahead, they can find that getting another job is particularly difficult if they are effectively competing with everyone else who has lost their job.

For a long time unions argued for extra help for workers faced with large scale redundancy, and their campaigns won an important victory in 1998, when, at the TUC Congress, the government announced the creation of the Rapid Response Fund, which later became the Rapid Response Service.

This briefing is designed to tell union lay and full time representatives about the help the RRS offers, which people are eligible for that help, and how the service is organised. It concludes with contact details for the Rapid Response Service and other sources of advice. Jobcentre Plus provided very valuable help in drafting this briefing, and the TUC is very pleased to publish it with their endorsement.

What the RRS does

The Rapid Response Service helps workers and employers by giving those facing redundancy access to the services of Jobcentre Plus and its partners before they lose their jobs. The support available through the Rapid Response Service is not just about Jobcentre Plus services - where appropriate other partners, such as the LSC, the devolved administrations, Local Authorities and Regional Development Agencies will be involved to provide a package of support to those affected.

As the name suggests, early intervention is a priority objective, helping some workers into decent new jobs before they have lost their current ones. Through the RRS, Jobcentre Plus and its partners offer workers faced with redundancy a range of options to help them find alternative work. The service can be an important resource for union representatives in this situation.

With enough notice and before RRS kicks in, Jobcentre Plus can put employers in touch with Business Link and ACAS, if they haven't already made contact, to help them work through alternatives to redundancies.

What does Jobcentre Plus offer?

Jobcentre Plus is an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions, and it brings job finding and benefit services together in one organisation.

Whenever an employer is considering redundancies it is always worth contacting the Jobcentre Plus Regional Rapid Response Manager to find out what help is available. In general, the earlier they are brought into the picture the better. When consulted on redundancies, union representatives may find it useful to ask whether this first step has been taken.

Originally, the Rapid Response Service was intended to work with organisations facing 'significant' redundancies, intervening when existing provision did not meet the circumstances. In response to the current economic downturn, in November 2008, the Government extended the Service so that it is now available to any employer considering making people redundant. The support available through RRS varies, but it can include on-site advice surgeries, information and advice about jobsearch, vacancies and training opportunities.

Who qualifies for RRS assistance?

Support from the Rapid Response Service is now available to any companies who make Jobcentre Plus aware that they are considering redundancies.

The agency will be proactive in making contact with companies considering redundancies where:

a) The company meets the legislative requirement to notify the Insolvency Service that they are proposing to make 20 or more people redundant; or

b) Redundancies are proposed in any area where the District Manager considers that the overall scale will have a significant impact on the labour market.

Jobcentre Plus has also agreed with R3, the trade association for insolvency practitioners that its members will work with JCP and promote RRS to employers in difficulty.

Individuals can be helped through RRS when either 'under threat' or 'under notice' of redundancy. Typically, the full range of services is only provided when the company has actually given employees their formal notice of redundancy, but information, advice and guidance can be accessed before this.

Partnerships

Organisations that may be represented on RRS partnerships.

  • Jobcentre Plus;
  • The Employer;
  • Trade Union Representatives;
  • Outplacement Company already working with the Company;
  • Regional Development Agency (RDA);
  • Learning Skills Council (LSC);
  • The Scottish Government;
  • The Welsh Assembly Government;
  • Local Authorities;
  • Chamber of Commerce;
  • Member of Parliament;
  • Government Office; and
  • Business Links.
  • HMRC.

For many redundancies, particular larger ones with a significant impact on the local labour market, a partnership approach is taken to develop a proposed package of support. Each redundancy is different and the partnerships will not be identical, the box gives a list of organisations that may be involved.

The list is not exhaustive and it is not necessary for all these parties to be involved. In a large scale redundancy, it would be surprising if these organisations were not involved:

  • Jobcentre Plus;
  • RDA and LSC (England);
  • Welsh Assembly Government (Wales only);
  • Scottish Government (Scotland only).

This means that you cannot take union involvement for granted - if your employer is planning to make redundancies you may want to raise this issue.

What support is available?

Jobcentre Plus emphasises the Rapid Response Service's flexibility, which means that there is no 'typical' menu of assistance on offer.

RRS interventions are aimed at helping the individual workers faced with redundancy. These include:

  • Jobcentre Plus's normal information, advice and guidance services.
  • Sometimes this can take the form of an on-site 'jobshop,' and, in organisations with significant numbers working shifts, they have opened at times when Jobcentre Plus offices will all be closed.
  • Workers can be advised about vacancies, jobsearch, writing a CV and interview techniques. In some cases, individual workers have benefited from advice about looking for jobs abroad.

Advice about tax issues, self-employment, benefits and pensions will also be available - but Jobcentre Plus, or its partners, cannot offer the sort of advice that is better provided by an independent financial adviser.

Through the Rapid Response Service, an individual can have their skills assessed and they may be offered:

  • Access to a wide range of existing programmes from Jobcentre Plus and its partners;
  • Training for work in quality jobs that are available in the local labour market, and the opportunity to get certificates for previously uncertified skills;
  • One-off support to address individual barriers to re-employment linked to specific job offers e.g. tools, travel costs.

Support for individuals is available through RRS once they are under threat of redundancy and typically until 13 weeks after they have lost their job - and, provided it has already been agreed, they may complete any support that goes beyond that point.

How is the service delivered?

In each of the Jobcentre Plus English regional offices and in Scotland and Wales there is a Rapid Response Service manager who handle requests for support. Their contact details can be found on the Jobcentre Plus Website, www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/employers - click on 'help with redundancies'.

In Wales, the Rapid Response Service works with the Welsh Assembly Government's ReAct and ProAct schemes, part funded by the European Social Fund, to offer support to people faced with redundancy. ReAct provides support to individuals for them to obtain training to update their skills to obtain new employment. In addition, it offers a subsidy to employers recruiting someone who has been made redundant. ProAct aims to help businesses cope with the downturn, and develop the skill of their staff ready for the upturn.

In Scotland, PACE - Partnership Action for Continuing Employment - was established in March 2000. PACE puts in place a strategic national framework to enable an improved and consistent partnership approach to dealing with companies in difficulty at all stages, including in the event of redundancy.

Help with redundancy

As a union rep, you will be aware of the services available from your union. In addition, the TUC has produced a family of materials on what to do in the event of closure or redundancies:

You may also find these contacts useful:

  • unionlearn - union learning rep.s can play a vital role in helping workers facing redundancies to get training that will improve their job chances. You can find up to the minute news, advice and information about skills and training at the Unionlearn website: http://www.unionlearn.org.uk/
  • workSMART, the TUC's online world of work resource, has advice on all aspects of employment law including help with issues around redundancy. You can find it at www.worksmart.org.uk
  • The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a page of links to useful redundancy resources, http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/employmnet/redundancy/index.htm
  • Much of the information in this briefing is taken from a very good two-page introduction to the Rapid Response Service on the Jobcentre Plus website www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/employers - click on 'Help with redundancies.'
  • In Scotland, the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/support/15419 - is a gateway to useful information about PACE and its partner organisations.
  • If you live in a town or city with an Unemployed Workers' Centre, it is also worth checking out what services they have to offer. There is a list of TUC-recognised Unemployed Workers' Centres on the web - follow the link from http://www.tuc.org.uk/the_tuc/