Conservatives hint at JSA change for under-25s work experience

The Conservatives have strongly hinted that they would look to change Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) rules to allow those on unpaid work experience to continue claiming the benefit if they win the next election.

Personnel Today revealed that current government regulations mean out-of-work young people undertaking unpaid work experience have to stop claiming unemployment benefits, unless the placement is organised through Jobcentre Plus.

Experts warned that most work experience is organised privately and this restriction on claiming JSA would put many out-of-work young people off seeking work placements to boost their skills.

But David Willetts, shadow secretary of state for universities and skills, told Personnel Today: “We have committed ourselves to looking at this.”

He added: “We have said that we want to liberalise the rules on Jobseeker’s Allowance so it’s possible for people to access a wider range of training and this is a very good example, and I would certainly be very sympathetic to ways in which we could make it easier for young people to access those sorts of programmes. It could well fall into our policy commitment.”

Official statistics published last week revealed that the number of 16- to 24-year-olds out of work had reached 947,000 in the three months to July 2009, up 59,000 from the previous quarter.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that the current rules existed because “we don’t want the public purse to be going towards [privately arranged] experience that could last for weeks that a company should be paying for”.

Last month the CIPD called on the government to introduce a £1,250 work placement subsidy for employers who take on unemployed 16- to 17-year-olds for six months’ work experience.

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