Melton Council has secured a £400,000 grant to open a pioneering learning and skills centre.
The centre, to be based at Phoenix House in Nottingham Road, will provide jobseekers with work-ready skills and help vulnerable residents lead more independent lives by giving them budgeting and IT skills to manage their household finances better.
The funding has come from the European Social Fund and will be matched by the council from existing budgets and projects.
The learning and skills centre will be a ‘one-stop shop’ which will seek to target about 500 people currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance between now and March 2015.
Evidence of a clear need for the centre was presented to Melton Community Partnership when it met last Thursday.
Current information indicates that in 2012, nearly one in five (19.12 per cent) of Melton working age residents either had no qualifications or NVQ Level 1 compared to 15.64 per cent nationally. Melton is also below county and national averages for those trained to NVQ levels 3 and 4.
Keith Aubrey, Melton Council’s strategic director, said: “The aim is to boost job hunters’ skills and, more generally, to make people more independent, digitally, financially and socially.
“We need to make sure those seeking employment can access the right courses, are work-ready and have the skills employers are looking for.
“We also have to acknowledge that those who cannot live their lives independently rely heavily on local services, which are themselves under strain due to austerity. We need to reduce that demand and cost.”
The council is already doing a lot of work around the switch to universal credit and changes to how housing benefit will be paid and is aiming to get at least 50 people on the programme back into work.
Mr Aubrey said: “This is about early intervention and tackling what can be quite complex issues head on and in one place.
“An analysis of calls to our customer services team over the last two years gives an indication of the importance of doing this.
“In that period there were 114,000 interactions or contacts from 19,000 people, but 44,000 came from just 1,300 people and 11 people contacted us over 100 times.
“We want to address this and this initiative is exciting for Melton as it is being seen as a pioneering project. It has the potential to help a lot of people who struggle to keep their heads above water.”