David Cameron's plan to force young people to work for benefits would see them working 30 hours a week for a fraction of the minimum wage, it emerged today.
The proposals would put young adults who have been out of work, education or training for six months (“neets”) into compulsory community work such as making meals for the elderly or joining local charities.
Under the scheme, Jobseekers’ Allowance would be abolished for 18 to 21-year-olds and replaced with the already announced “Youth Allowance” of the same amount - £57.35 a week, or £1.91 per hour of work.
The Prime Minister claimed that the programme would “effectively abolish long-term youth unemployment”.
Speaking ahead of an appearance in Hove today, he said: “(Our reforms) are not just about saving money.
“They are about changing lives and making this a country that rewards work and gives everyone the chance of a better future.
“That is why we are taking further steps to help young people make something of their lives. Our goal in the next parliament is effectively to abolish long-term youth unemployment.
“We want to get rid of that well-worn path from the school gate, down to the jobcentre, and on to a life on benefits.”
Mr Cameron claimed young people need "work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day” while searching for a full-time job.
“From day one they must realise that welfare is not a one-way street,” he added.
“Yes, we will help them, but there is no more something for nothing. They must give back to their community too.”
The Conservatives said the £20 million policy would be funded by initial savings from the nationwide introduction of Universal Credit.
It is understood that the new plans will not apply to young people who have completed independent work experience in the six months before their benefits claim or the small number of university graduates who could be drawn into the scheme.
The Community Work Programme policy would apply to the roughly 50,000 new 18 to 21-year-old claimants a year who have been “neet” for six months - around 10 per cent of claims.
According to Downing Street, there is evidence that community work placements are more effective in moving claimants off benefits than the normal Jobcentre Plus regime.
But a Liberal Democrat spokesperson criticised the Tory proposals as “all stick, no carrot”, saying they were designed to “punish” rather than to help people into work, the BBC reported.
The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, said the party had “abandoned thousands of young people”.
Under Labour plans, young people who have been unemployed for a year would be offered a six-month job, paid for by a tax on bankers’ bonuses.
The "Compulsory Jobs Guarantee" would also apply to adults aged 25 or over claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for two years or more.
Ed Miliband has also warned that young unemployed people who refuse to comply with the scheme could lose benefits under a Labour government.
Additional reporting by PA
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