New scheme helps 900 Stoke-on-Trent benefit claimants return to work
ALMOST 1,000 long-term benefit claimants in Stoke-on-Trent have been found jobs as part of a new project aimed at helping the unemployed.
Latest figures show 900 city residents are now working after being reviewed by the Government's DWP Work Programme.
The programme aims to help the unemployed overcome issues including poor health and low confidence, to land jobs.
A further 2,568 people in Staffordshire have also secured work.
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Terence Burton, aged 34, of Dawlish Drive, Bentilee, was included on the Work Programme after being out of work for 14 years and now works in a care home.
He had been a full-time carer for his wife Katie – who had Elhers Danlos syndrome, which causes loose joints, abnormal skin and fragile body tissues – since their marriage in 2000.
After her death in 2004, he remained unemployed to care for his two sons, James, aged 12, who also suffers with the condition, and Simon, aged 11.
He said: "I used to work in a box factory but when I married Katie I decided to give it up and look after her full time. That's how my family needed me.
"After she died I needed to stay off work to look after my children. At that time we were living on income support and child benefit."
Terence today declined to say how much he received in income support, although he decided in 2011 that he needed to work to get more money.
He added: "I needed more money to support my family, but it was a daunting prospect to have to go back into work after all that time.
"I had been caring for people for so long that I knew I wanted a job as a carer."
Terence joined the Work Programme with the Shaw Trust national charity earlier this year. He feared his lack of qualifications and the limitations in the hours he could work would stop him finding a job.
He said: "The Shaw Trust people were brilliant. They helped build my confidence, write up a CV and learn interview techniques.
"Now I have a part-time job I really like and I'm studying for an NVQ."
Some long-term benefit claimants are offered the chance to join a training scheme with DIY firm Screwfix at Stafford. They volunteer for two days a week for up to five weeks before having the chance to apply for a job with the firm.
Darren Burrows, operations manager for Screwfix, in Stafford, said: "This is a brilliant scheme because it gives people who haven't been in work for a long time the chance to retrain in warehouse work. We also get to know our potential employees, which is preferable to hiring someone off the street."
The DWP Work Programme is delivered across the West Midlands by Serco. Tens of thousands of unemployed people across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are currently receiving benefits.
Work Programme director Gareth Matthews said: "The Work Programme is starting to make a real impact in changing people's lives for the better through employment.
"There is clear evidence that we have helped more people gain work which is good news for them and the local area."
Nationally, more than 200,000 jobseekers have found employment through the Work Programme since it was launched in June 2011. It is estimated the programme will save taxpayers around £1 billion.