A £158 million fund has been unveiled by the Government to help people who have or fear losing their jobs find new work.

John Denham, Skills Secretary, said: "Now more than ever, it is important that we do what we can to help people who have been recently made redundant or are worried about being unemployed."

Ministers believe the measure will enable individuals to receive careers and work-related training advice quicker and easier, as well as backing employers seeking to improve their workers' skills.

Mr Denham continued: "The measures will mean that many more people will have real help to find or stay in work.

"By increasing the advice on offer and improving access to training we will ensure that more is made of the £4.5 billion the Government already spends on skills. This will help make it more relevant to those that have been recently made or fear being made redundant.

"It is not the only support the Government can offer but it is an important part of it and we remain committed to always doing what we can to help people where necessary."

The announcement comes as recent official statistics show the number of people unemployed and claiming Jobseeker's Allowance has again soared above one million. According to Dr John Philpott, Chief Economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), this rise confirms the recession in the UK labour market.

Dr Philpott said: "The latest unemployment figures are bleak and herald a return to the dark days of mass joblessness we hoped had gone forever. Sadly, it is now inevitable that things will become bleaker still. An annus horribilis awaits the UK jobs market in 2009.

"Today’s bad news on jobs confirms that the UK labour market has crossed the border into recession. Although there is some comfort in the fact that there are still thousands of vacancies to be had, the number of jobseekers chasing each vacancy is growing by the day as unemployment heads toward at least 2.8 million in 2009.

"The abrupt increase in the number of people who have been made redundant is the most striking aspect about today’s figures. The ominous news is that this is not an anomaly, with the worst job cuts expected to hit between Christmas and Easter."

James Purnell, Work and Pensions Secretary, has also unveiled £79 million of further support to help people get back into employment, with particular focus on those that have been out of work for six months.

Under the scheme, jobseekers will be offered assistance in drafting CVs, filling in application forms, obtaining references and preparing for interviews. They will also be guided through confidence building exercises to help indentify their skills, and taught how to look for jobs.

Mr Purnell said: "The real help we are announcing is practical, personal and targeted at those who really need it. This new funding is in addition to the £1.3 billion announced by the Chancellor last month and we will use it to make sure we continue to provide a first class service to everyone looking for work."

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