George Osborne extends 'work for benefit' for jobless

 

George Osborne: ''No-one will get something for nothing''

The long-term unemployed will have to undertake work placements in return for their benefits, under tougher rules unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne.

Welfare must be "fair for those who need it and fair for those who pay for it", he told the Tory conference.

Mr Osborne also announced that he hoped to freeze fuel duty until 2015 to help people with the cost of living.

While the UK was on the right track, he warned people their family finances would not be "transformed overnight".

The chancellor insisted the government's economic plan was working but was "far from complete" and turned his fire on Labour - accusing them of "declaring war on enterprise".

In other developments at Conservative conference:

  • Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he was "proud" of the planned HS2 rail link and urged critics to stop "moaning"
  • The UK Independence Party said it was open to local deals for its candidates to stand aside in seats with Eurosceptic MPs - but the Tories reject the idea
  • David Cameron announced the Help to Buy mortgage scheme would be launched next week, three months earlier than planned
  • Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling address the conference later on Monday

In his speech Mr Osborne described Labour's policy to freeze energy prices for 20 months as "phoney" and compared Ed Miliband's political philosophy to that of Karl Marx.

Start Quote

He has pledged that even when the nation's books have been balanced he will keep the lid on spending in order to put aside money for the next rainy day”

End Quote

He said he was optimistic about the future, saying the "sun had started to rise above the hill" but much more needed to be done to raise living standards for this generation and the next.

"There is no feeling at the conference of a task completed or a victory won," he said. "The battle for turning Britain round is not even close to being over."

He said he hoped to freeze fuel duty until the end of the current Parliament if savings could be found to pay for the move. Fuel duty has not risen since January 2011.

The RAC welcomed the announcement but called for a more fundamental overhaul of motoring taxation.

Mr Osborne also pledged to continue to keep control of spending even after the economic recovery was secured to avoid repeating the mistakes of "deluded" predecessors who believed they had abolished boom and bust.

Cleaning up litter

By running a budget surplus in the good times, he would "fix the roof while the sun was shining".

Analysis

There is nothing new about making jobseekers work on pain of losing their benefits.

The government began what it called Mandatory Work Activity back in 2011.

Under the scheme, JobCentre advisers sent people on four-week placements on pain of losing their Jobseeker's allowance. It was down to private contractors to source the placements.

There is nothing new in the policy affecting many thousands of people.

Between May 2011 and February 2013, there were 146,810 referrals to Mandatory Work Activity placements.

Although government figures show there were only 53,720 occasions on which people actually started the placements.

Those who failed to begin may have got a job, decided not to claim the benefit or simply refused to take part.

And there is nothing new in putting some people on work placements once their time on the Work Programme has finished.

Plans to do that were announced in May. George Osborne is changing the system, though, by extending the placements from four weeks to six months.

Only about a third of the 200,000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants affected will be on the work placements.

The other two thirds will either have to attend a jobcentre every day or undergo programmes to address the reasons they cannot find work like illiteracy or mental health problems.

The new system will affect people completing the Work Programme without finding jobs from April 2014.

Labour said Mr Osborne could not be trusted to deliver a surplus, having had to backtrack on his earlier pledge to eliminate the structural deficit in 2015.

"By opposing the measures Labour announced last week to freeze energy prices and expand free childcare for working parents, the Tories have shown once again that they only ever stand up for a privileged few not for hard working families," shadow minister Rachel Reeves said.

On welfare, Mr Osborne said that while the government would not "abandon" the long-term unemployed, no-one would be able to get something for nothing.

Those who had not found work after two years on the existing Work Programme - where contractors are paid a fee to get people into a job - will face a new scheme called help-to-work.

To still qualify for jobseeker's allowance they will have three options - work placements, such as cleaning up litter; daily visits to a job centre; or taking part in compulsory training, for example, to improve their literacy.

People would have to remain on help-to-work until they found employment - unlike the current scheme which is limited to six months.

Those who breach the rules will lose four weeks' worth of benefits. Anyone who breaks the rules a second time faces losing three months' worth of benefits.

'Useful work'

Mr Osborne told the conference: "We are saying there is no option of doing nothing for your benefits, no something-for-nothing any more.

"They will do useful work to put something back into their community; making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a local charity.

"Others will be made to attend the job centre every working day.

"And for those with underlying problems, like drug addiction and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of support. No-one will be ignored or left without help. But no-one will get something for nothing."

A Department of Work and Pensions assessment of mandatory work activity - a similar compulsory work scheme introduced by ministers in 2011 - found it "had no impact on the likelihood of being employed". And on the work programme, DWP figures suggested one in 10 of those seen found a long-term job.

Unions said the help-to-work plan was an admission that existing schemes had failed.

And business groups said "warm words" on enterprise and wealth creation must be backed up by a "relentless focus" in the years ahead.

"Breaking government addiction to debt and achieving a surplus in public finances is the most important ambition any administration can have," the Institute of Directors said.

 

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  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 1614.

    @1576.OnesMaw

    Jobcentre goes ballistic if you try to go on a training course, to retrain you realise? Unless it's one of their 'life skills' courses (which are totally useless), you'll be threatened with sanctions. I'm going for apprentice positions now for retraining purposes but at 32 I doubt I'll be taken. Also filling forms takes time, if you want to make a GOOD impression on employers.

  • rate this
    +103

    Comment number 1001.

    A bit torn, as a tax payer i want to see something being done whilst searching for a job to benefit the community than just sitting around.

    At the same time this sort of "labour" will eventually take away from real jobs and i feel that this system could be heavily exploited as i have seen with low paid apprentices chucked after 6 months to avoid keeping them on full time with higher pay.

  • rate this
    +71

    Comment number 995.

    There does seem to be quite a few problems with this, that I can see...

    1) Where are all these 'job placements' going to come from?
    2) Surely if it's for private companies, they can afford to pay them too...?
    3) What about those with kids/those who'd be worse off working than otherwise?
    4) Relevance to career seems lacking, voluntary work has some, job placements don't.

  • rate this
    +217

    Comment number 457.

    I recently had to attend a compulsory 4 week work programme. This involved sitting in a room all day with nothing to do. I had previously spent two days a week doing voluntary admin work for a charity but was forced to give this up to attend the programme.

  • rate this
    -25

    Comment number 356.

    Absolutely the right way to go. At least it could help some people get into the right frame of mind, simply by leaving the house regularly and then having to report-in somewhere, as being "ready for work". A small step towards getting into a work-type routine and much better than just sitting at home each day!

 

Comments 5 of 11

 

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