The long-term unemployed would be forced to clean graffiti, pick up litter or carry out other useful community work if they fail to find a job after two years under Tory plans to be unveiled today.
David Cameron’s most radical reform to Britain’s welfare system would require benefit claimants to complete a mandatory year-long work programme on exceeding their entitlement to out-of-work payments.
Currently around 837,000 claim Jobseekers’ Allowance despite an estimated 600,000 unfilled vacancies in Britain’s economy. The Conservatives’ “green paper” on welfare reform, to be unveiled by Mr Cameron in south London today, is designed to outflank Gordon Brown’s own efforts to drive more benefits claimants into available jobs.
The Conservatives have already proposed that Britain’s 2.6 million Incapacity Benefit claimants should be reassessed. If current rules were properly applied 200,000 could be cleared as fit for work, the party claims.
In addition the Tories propose a “three strikes and you’re out” policy that sets tougher sanctions on those who turn down reasonable job offers. Repeat offenders face having their benefits stopped for up to three years under the plans.
Building on proposals first set out by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Cameron will say that most of those on Jobseekers’ Allowance would be required to attend new “back-to-work” centres to qualify for their benefits. The new requirement would apply to lone parents as soon as their youngest child was old enough to attend primary school.
The centres could be run by charities, other voluntary bodies or private companies with funding linked directly to their success in keeping individuals in jobs.
The time-limit on benefits entitlement is designed to deal with a hard-core of claimants determined to resist all attempts to get them back to work. The limit would be cumulative over three years preventing serial claimants from taking short-term jobs to escape the cap. On reaching the maximum claimants would be forced to carry out “valuable improvement and amenity would in the areas where they live” to carry on getting benefits.
Chris Grayling, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said last night that the two-year limit would call time on “career claimants” who abuse the system.
“This plan is designed to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and to start them down the road back into sustainable employment,” he said.
“It just makes no sense at all to have millions of people coming to Britain to work while we have millions of people stuck at home claiming out-of work benefits.”
He added: “All of it should also put an end to the situation where people can sit at home and make a career out of claiming out of work benefits.”
However Mr Cameron was accused of “re-opening hostilities” against lone parents by campaining groups. Kate Bell, head of policy at One Parent Families, said the Tory welfare proposals “risks plunging many families into poverty.” “Increasing sanctions will do nothing to help parents find the flexible jobs and childcare they need and will penalise those who most need to be there for their children. Evidence from America, where over a million more children have fallen into poverty since 2000, shows that when sanctions are applied, it’s the most vulnerable families who lose out.”
“David Cameron has said that the Tory war on lone parents is over but these proposals show that the Conservatives have failed to listen to the needs of lone parents and their children and are re-opening the hostilities.” (Francis Elliott, The Sunday Times) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3151271.ece