The UK’s long-term unemployed could be forced to carry out compulsory manual work or risk losing their welfare benefits under plans being put forward by the government, newspapers reported today.
The U.S.-style scheme would see the long-term jobless ordered to take up four-week placements in order to get them used to having a full-time job.
The idea is part of major reforms, due to be unveiled this week, to make cuts to Britain’s huge welfare bill, reduce dependency on benefits and weed out those earning money but not declaring it.
Shortly after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition took power in May, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled plans to simplify the complex web of benefits available to reduce errors and inefficiencies.
Duncan Smith said the system had become regressive and was not giving people the right incentive to work as many were financially better off unemployed.
Under his plans separate benefits for items such as housing, income support or incapacity will be replaced by a “universal credit” system whereby individual households would get a single welfare payment to ensure those in work would be better off.
According to newspaper reports long-term unemployed would be told to take up work placements of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period.
If they refuse or fail to complete the program, their jobseekers’ allowance, worth £64.30 a week for those over over 25, could be stopped for at least three months.
Charities, local councils, voluntary organizations and private companies will be contracted to provide the placements, which could involve gardening, clearing up litter or painting schools.
“We will shortly be bringing forward further proposals on how to break the cycle of dependency blighting many of our communities and make sure work always pays,” a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said.
The proposals echo similar schemes in the United States, but do not go as far as the system there which limits the time people can claim benefits.
“The message will go across; play ball or it’s going to be difficult,” Duncan Smith told the Daily Telegraph yesterday.
“One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks’ manual work — turn up at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they’re doing other work.”
In 2009/10, the government spent 87 billion pounds on benefits and tax credits for people of working age, dwarfing most other items of government spending.
The government estimates that some 1.4 million people in Britain have been on out of work benefits for nine or more of the last 10 years. In total 8 million of the working population of just over 40 million are not contributing making “unemployment” very nearly 20%. It is a massive challenge that should have been tackled years ago but Iain Duncan Smith, often dubbed the “quiet man” of politics appears to be getting to grip with the tough trail ahead.
If the moves were coupled to a whistleblower charter enabling third parties to anonymously report abuse accelerated progress would be made.
Author: Chris Slay
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