Young `workshy' facing a six-month cut in benefits

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The Independent Online
YOUNG JOBLESS people who refuse offers of work or training will lose state benefits for six months as the Government tightens the screw on the "workshy."

Now, 18 to 24 year-olds can be deprived of social security payments for two weeks or four weeks under the Government's New Deal programme. In a controversial move, ministers have decided to extend the penalty for what they call a hard core of "persistent refuseniks" to 26 weeks.

The new sanctions, a further step towards an American-style workfare system, will take effect by the end of this year. It could eventually be extended to older unemployed people.

Ministers will dismiss criticism that the jobless will be left penniless. With the Treasury estimating that one million job vacancies are unfilled, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, said last night: "There can be no excuse for staying at home on benefit and not taking jobs on offer."

Tomorrow Tony Blair and Mr Brown will launch the Government's flagship pounds 5.5bn working families tax credit, hailing it as a landmark welfare reform that will ensure for the first time that families will be better off in work than living on benefits.

Mr Brown's message will be: "Work now pays. Now go to work."

About 1.5 million families will benefit from the scheme, by an average of pounds 67 a week. All families will be guaranteed an income of pounds 200 a week, and no family with an income of less than pounds 12,000 will pay tax.

Yesterday, government sources denied that the new sanctions meant that the New Deal had flopped. They said 125,000 youngsters had got jobs, 100,000 were in training and 12,000 had suffered cash penalties.

Mr Brown will also unveil new measures to help people find work, including an pounds 18m scheme using the Internet and a proposed "Jobs TV" channel on digital television.

The "Jobs Highway" will allow job-seekers to browse the Internet through terminals in Job Centres, personal computers in homes, libraries, colleges and community centres. The Internet-based "Jobs Bank" will also list the CVs of job-hunters for employers.