The jobless would lose their unemployment benefit under a Labour Government if they failed a “basic skills test” and refused training.
In an interview with The Independent, Rachel Reeves, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, revealed a “tough love” strategy to stop the unemployed staying on the dole for up to three years before their English, maths and computer skills are assessed. Labour’s test would take place within six weeks of someone claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).
The move would tackle the problem of “Neets” – the one million 16 to 24 year-olds not in education, employment or training. Many would no longer go straight from school on to benefits. The test would also apply to new jobless adults.
Ms Reeves said: “It has to be right that people who are not trying hard enough and don’t want to make the effort required to get into work, or get the skills they need, forfeit their benefit.”
She said: “If you don’t have these basic skills, you are going to struggle to get a job. If people have been out of work for six months, employers are not interested in them. Short term unemployment can quickly become long term unemployment and then becomes a lifetime of unemployment.”
Ms Reeves revealed plans to pay a higher JSA rate for an initial period to people with a record of work. “People who have worked for longer should get a bit of extra support if they lose their job,” she said.
She attacked the “cost of failure” in “part-time Britain” under the current Government. She revealed that taxpayers are footing a £4.7bn a year bill for the record 1.472m people working part-time who want to work full-time. Analysis commissioned by Labour found that £3bn is lost in tax and national insurance payments, £1.8bn paid out in tax credits and £1.8bn paid in housing benefit.
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