Government emphasises similarities with Conservative welfare policy
In an fairly depressing development the Government has responded to yesterday’s Conservative welfare plans by announcing its own commitment to introduce mandatory work for benefits for people who have been unemployed for six months or over. ‘Work for your benefits‘ pilots are still proposed from October 2010 (requiring people who have been out of work for two years to undertake six months of enforced work experience), but it now appears that further plans are underway to require those who have spent six months out of work to participate in unpaid work. The Government have stated that:
In trial areas from next year, where jobseekers have been out of work for more than six months but have turned down work experience, support or training that could help them get jobs, advisors will be able to require them to take up a work trial or work experience placement as a condition of continuing to receive benefit.
At present Jobcentre Plus emphasises that ‘work trials‘ are ‘entirely voluntary’ (although participation in New Deal, which requires claimants to choose to participate in one of several New Deal options, is mandatory after 12 months of claiming JSA (6 months in the case of New Deal for Young People)), and that work experience is one of several New Deal options. The change that is being proposed is therefore to bring forward the timescales in which enforced participation in a work based New Deal option, probably for three months, is required. So, not quite as much enforced work as the ‘work for your benefit’ pilots propose, but still much more than many would like.
As I stated in response to yesterday’s Conservative proposals, workfare prevents people from looking for jobs, reduces opportunities for re-training and is not seen as credible by future employers, thereby generally having no impact on job outcomes, and in some cases making the chance of people moving into work less likely. The TUC will continue to oppose it regardless of which Government attempts to introduce it.