Mandatory work scheme expanded


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The Independent Online

The Government today announced a £5 million expansion of a mandatory work scheme, including tougher sanctions which could see people lose their benefits for three years.

Employment minister Chris Grayling published new figures showing that almost half of the first group of jobseekers referred to the Mandatory Work Activity scheme either signed off jobseekers allowance (JSA) or failed to turn up.

The scheme will be expanded to allow for up to 70,000 referrals a year, requiring jobseekers to do a month's full-time activity while receiving their benefit.

Claimants failing to complete a placement already face losing JSA for three months for a first offence, and six months for a second offence, with a tougher sanctions regime starting later in the year which includes losing benefits for three years for a third offence.

Mr Grayling said: "People need to be aware that for those who are fit enough to work it is simply not an option to sit on benefits and do nothing.

"We've found that a month's full-time activity can be a real deterrent for some people who are either not trying or who are gaming the system. But we're also fighting a battle to stop claimants slipping back into the benefits system by the back door.

"That's why for the extended roll out of Mandatory Work Activity we will toughen up the sanctions regime and make sure that anyone re-claiming JSA will have to complete a full placement or face a further sanction."

The new funding will allow for 9,000 extra places a year in England, Wales and Scotland.

The scheme was launched a year ago, involving four week placements of up to 30 hours a week, involving community and charity work and environmental projects.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Forcing people without paid jobs to work for free won't tackle the UK's unemployment crisis.

"Instead of punishing people without jobs, the Government should focus on getting our economy out of recession and providing good quality employment support for the 2.6 million unemployed people across the country who are desperate to move into paid work."