Osborne reveals new benefits plan
Chancellor George Osborne this morning revealed plans for a raft of stringent benefit reforms at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. The new measures outlined include forcing those out of work to carry out mandatory placements, attend a Jobcentre every day or take part in compulsory training in order to keep receiving their benefits.
Claimants would be enrolled onto the new scheme called help-to-work only after they had been on the current work programme for two years, where private firms get paid to find the unemployed jobs. Osborne said in his speech to activists:“No-one will be ignored or left without help. But no-one will get something for nothing”.
Osborne said claimants would have to carry out work such as picking up litter, cleaning up graffiti, cooking for the elderly and working in charity shops for 30 hours a week, in addition to ten hours of job searching.
The move may be seen as a desperate attempt to shore up the beleaguered work programme, which has come under fire after figures show only one in ten go on to find a permanent job. Similarly, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report found that the mandatory work activity programme introduced in 2011 “had no impact on the likelihood of being employed”.
Rachel Reeves, shadow treasury secretary, slammed the plan saying: “[It has] taken three wasted years of rising long-term unemployment and a failed work programme to come up with this new scheme…[which] is not as ambitious as Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee, which would ensure there is a paid job for every young person out of work for over 12 months and every adult unemployed for more than two years.”
The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, warned Osborne of the dangers of using the new measures to “punish the long-term unemployed for circumstances which are outside their control”.
Other campaign groups and charities have expressed concern over the strict sanctions that would accompany the scheme with four weeks’ worth of benefits taken away on first breech of the rules and three months’ for a second. The Trussel Trust recently found that food bank usage had risen 170% in the last year with benefit delays and sanctions cited as a major cause.