Benefits 'purge' on new age travellers

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The Independent Online
NEW AGE travellers and others who rely on income support without actively seeking work will have their benefit stopped under planned rules announced yesterday by Nicholas Scott, the social security minister.

Mr Scott said the clamp-down - also to include the scrapping of warnings that benefit will be stopped - was needed because 'some people, including many so- called new age travellers, are making no real effort to find work.'

The new rules, to be drawn up after consultation by the Social Security Advisory Committee, will not apply to couples or single people with children.

Under the present system benefit ceases if, after a written warning, unemployed people fail to provide evidence that they are actively seeking a job.

But single people still receive 'hardship' Income Support payments of up to 60 per cent of their previous benefit. Mr Scott said: 'Many people who flout the 'actively seeking work' rule are quite happy to rely on these hardship payments and show no interest in advice on how they could find work. In addition, it appears that many people, including new age travellers, are not paying attention to the warning.

'In future, written warnings will be issued only to people who genuinely misunderstand what is expected of them and could benefit from further guidance and counselling.'

Hampshire police last night drafted in extra men to prevent travellers reaching a a site near Winchester, which was earmarked for a weekend festival. A spokesman said minor skirmishes between police and travellers had taken place outside the city.