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Jobless hampered by `snakes and ladders' benefit system

The benefits system repeatedly throws up obstacles to jobless claimants trying to find work, according to a report published today. The survey, by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, said that for jobseekers on low incomes, the system "can resemble a game of snakes and ladders".

The "sticks and carrots" designed to encourage people to take jobs had a limited impact, with gains from Government welfare-to-work initiatives often quickly cancelled out by the loss of other help, it said.

While the report welcomed measures by the Labour Government to get people back into work - including a review of the benefits system - it said that more needed to be done to break the cycle of welfare dependency.

"In-work" benefits, such as family credit, which were supposed to boost people on low incomes, often failed to do so because their effect was blunted by additional work-related costs, such as child care.

Instead of providing a stepping stone into better-paid, more secure work, they simply ended up supporting people in a cycle of low-paid, short-term jobs, punctuated by further periods of unemployment.