More unemployed will lose benefits if they refuse work

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Indy Politics

More unemployed people will lose state benefits unless they take up offers of training or work, Gordon Brown has announced.

Lone parents, the sick and disabled and long-term unemployed will have to make more effort to find work as the Government moves towards the "workfare" system used in some US states.

The Prime Minister told the CBI's annual conference in London: "Rights and responsibilities will be at the heart of our approach so we will intensify compulsion while at the same time offering new incentives."

He announced moves to cut the number of people on incapacity benefit by applying a tougher "fit to work" test to existing and new claimants, starting with the under 25s.

Single parents will have to prepare for a return to work when their youngest child reaches 14, when they will undergo a "skills health check". At present, they lose income support when their youngest child turns 16, but the age will be reduced gradually, and may eventually fall to seven.

When someone signs on as unemployed, they will sign up for a "skills review" which will ensure they get training if they need it. Their response could be taken into account in their benefit entitlement. Unemployed, sick and disabled claimants could face such a review after six months on benefit. A rule which stops people on jobseeker's allowance training for more than 16 hours a week will be relaxed to allow eight weeks of full-time training.

Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will today extend the use of private firms, charities and voluntary groups to help the jobless back to work. They will be paid by results and provide one-to-one coaching, mentoring and tutoring.

Mr Brown rejected claims that he was watering down Tony Blair's public service reforms. Richard Lambert, CBI director general, told the Prime Minister in a question-and-answer session: "There's a bit of a sense around that the pace has slowed." Mr Brown said the employment service would be "radically changed" by being opened up to the private and voluntary sector.