Archbishop of Canterbury attacks manual labour plan

Plans to make the long-term unemployed do unpaid manual labour for their benefits could push vulnerable people into a "downward spiral of despair", the Archbishop of Canterbury warned yesterday.

In a forthright intervention into the debate on welfare, Rowan Williams said he had "a lot of worries" about the scheme, which will be formally unveiled this week by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

His comments will irritate Coalition ministers – particularly the Tories, who remember their party's fractious relationship with the Church of England under Dr Williams' predecessor in the 1980s, Robert Runcie.

Mr Duncan Smith's plans will see unemployed people made to undertake a 30-hour-a-week work placement if job advisers think they would "benefit from experiencing the habits and routines of working life". Postings are likely to be provided by charities or councils and would include jobs like litter-picking and gardening. They will offer jobless people the opportunity to gain work discipline while benefiting their local community.

Anyone refusing to take part or failing to turn up on time could have their £65-a-week Jobseekers Allowance stopped for three months.

Defending the plans yesterday, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said that the Work Activity placements would be used as a "sanction" against benefit claimants who failed to take advantage of available support to find employment.

He denied that the Government was seeking to treat the long-term unemployed like criminals doing community service. "People on benefits ... have a responsibility to take advantage of the support and help being offered to them," he told the BBC's Politics Show. "We are seeking to extend [existing] sanctions ... and say to people, 'Take advantage of this help'."

Dr Williams told BBC radio in the West Midlands: "People struggling to find work and a secure future are driven further into a downwards spiral of uncertainty, even despair, when the pressure is on in that way. People are often in this starting place not because they are wicked or stupid or lazy but because circumstances have been against them."

TUC senior policy officer Richard Exell said: "The reason we have got such high unemployment isn't because of a problem with the work ethic, it is because there aren't enough jobs for people to do. We have got 2.5 million unemployed people and fewer than half a million job vacancies. Unemployed people are the victims here, not the villains."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'