Jobseekers allowance claimants risk losing their benefits if they fail to accept job offers or participate in community work schemes, under Conservative Party welfare plans out today.
Claimants who refuse to accept a “reasonable” first job offer would lose one month of jobseeker allowance. If a second job offer is turned down, the claimant would lose three months. And if a third is rejected, the person would be ineligible for jobseekers allowance for three years.
Under David Cameron’s responsibility agenda, long-term claimants who have claimed jobseekers allowance for two out of the three previous years would be forced to join a year-long community work scheme or risk losing their benefit on a pro rata basis.
The community work schemes are based on a programme in Australia, Work for the Dole. If introduced, the scheme would be run by private and non-profit organisations, which would be paid on a per-claimant basis.
However, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, said these types of welfare-to-work schemes had failed to support people back into the workforce in the US or Australia and described the proposal as combining “injustice, expense and inefficiency in a single package”.
Further plans include the introduction of initial assessments for claimants, such as those on jobseekers allowance, employment allowance/incapacity benefit, support allowance/incapacity benefit, within 24 hours.
Where it rules that a person is not difficult to help, the claimant would be given six months’ support by Jobcentre Plus to return to work.
In addition, all incapacity benefit claimants will have a work capability assessment within three months, and those who are judged to be capable of returning to work would automatically transfer to jobseekers allowance.
Independent welfare-to-work providers, which would support claimants back into work, would be paid according to their success rates.
However, parents who receive child- and family-related benefits, such as child benefit or child tax credit, would still receive this support even if their jobseekers allowance is taken away.
Cameron described benefit dependency as a “tragedy” and one of the “primary causes of low aspirations and social breakdown”.
NCH chief executive Clare Tickell slammed the proposals. She said: “Docking benefits will only further isolate the most vulnerable and push children into poverty. The needs of parents and their children need to be looked at as a whole. We must recognise the multiple and often complex needs they face and ensure appropriate tailored support, such as childcare or training, is available. This is a far better way of engaging parents and getting them into employment.”
The Liberal Democrats’ shadow work and pensions secretary, Danny Alexander, slated the proposals as “hollow rhetoric”.
He said: “The Tories are missing the point on welfare reform – switching people between benefits will not tackle the problem of child poverty, low skills and mental and physical barriers to work.”