Compulsory work scheme to force ‘benefit junkies’ back into the workplace

Unemployed people will be expected to undertake work-related activity in return for their benefits, under a new government scheme.

Secretary of state for work and pensions, James Purnell, said in a speech to the Social Market Foundation that “avoiding work is not an option” for those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Earlier in the week, he told the House of Commons that from next April, young people not in education, employment or training, for at least 26 weeks by their 18th birthday will be fast-tracked to the intensive, Jobcentre Plus-led ‘support and sanctions’ regime.

The plans for a more flexible version of the welfare-to-work New Deal programme from October next year, mean that anyone unemployed for two years or more will have to do a work-experience placement permanently or face a payouts cut.

Purnell said: “To help tackle worklessness, everyone who is long-term unemployed and claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance will be expected to undertake work related activity in return for their benefit.

“We will make clear that we expect all jobseekers who join this programme to do at least four weeks of full-time work or work-related activity unless they find work within 12 months. This will be a minimum: we will be looking for bidders who extend this principle to those claimants who will benefit,” he said.

Purnell said he would look at the principle of individual budgets to see how government could give more control over their lives to those people who genuinely cannot work.

He added that a review, to be led by Lesley Strathie, chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, would also look at getting more disabled people in to work.

“Over the next few weeks, I will sit down with disabled people and address these questions before putting forward policy proposals,” said Purnell.

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