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Govt promises unemployed free laptops, net access, websites

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The government will give jobless workers PCs and personalised websites as part of an overhaul of its unemployment strategy that will make being out of work a more virtual experience.

The plans will also see an overhaul of the Jobcentre network as the government struggles to cope with a different type of unemployed worker and shift more of the service online.

Unemployed workers will be offered IT training, and a "personalised webpage" as part of an effort to get them to do their own jobsearching online. Some will also get PCs and broadband connections.

Employment minister Jim Knight said the Jobcentre Plus of the future would be: "A universal employment service, putting customers at the centre, acting as a broker for employers, with expert staff delivering personal advice and support."

It would be "a service that makes the best use of technology, is part of a new style of public services, and whose success is measured on the numbers getting in to and staying in work".

Press reports seem a little vague as to the exact nature of these personalised webpages. However, it appears the government envisages people having a portal to help them search for jobs, rather than an individualised website touting their vital statistics and availability for interesting positions to any passing websurfer.

They will also be sent text messages about vacancies - the government presumably confident that unemployment benefits can easily cover the cost of maintaining a mobile phone.

Knight added: "You could log on to a Jobcentre Plus group and chat online to people in your area who are looking for work – these groups would be self-defining but could, for example, be groups of mums and dads returning to work, people looking for a job after being off sick, people looking for part-time work – however customers defined themselves – but crucially allowing them mutual support."

Which the government presumably thinks will be a lot better than having the unemployed cluttering up libraries, parks and city centres having real life conversations.

Presumably, if the programme works the way the government wants it to, it can start scaling down its traditional Jobcentres, with many of the current staff being told to pick up their computers and go... to join the ranks of the unemployed. ®

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