Unemployment regulations tightened up as new Help to Work scheme unveiled by government

Individuals who have been unemployed for an extended period of time will risk having their benefit provisions cut unless they go to a Job Centre on a daily basis, offer to work without pay, or enter into some form of training, as part of a set of new regulations that have been officially instigated from today.

The new regulations will be applicable to any individual who has been out of employment for 24 month and are on the current Work Programme scheme.

The government has argued that the new Help to Work scheme will encourage people to ëfulfil their potentialí and have rejected claims that it has been implemented to ëpunishí the unemployed.

Those who qualify for the scheme but fail to adhere to its requirements will have their unemployment benefits cut for a specified period until that time that they actively seek employment, with the government identifying that a welfare recipients Jobseekerís allowance could be cut for four weeks for their first breach of regulations, and a larger 13 week period for their second offence.

It is estimated that the measure will impact 200,000 individuals across the country, as the government continues its bid to reduce state dependency and achieve full employment across the UK.

Poorly targeted?

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Everyone with the ability to work should be given the support and opportunity to do so.

“The previous system wrote too many people off, which was a huge waste of potential for those individuals as well as for their families and the country as a whole.”

Employment Minister Esther McVey has rebuffed critics of the scheme who have argued that it is a typically Conservative measure to ëpunish the unemployedí, highlighting that the primary aim behind the initiative is to help individuals get into employment and ëfulfil their potentialí.

She added that the scheme was directly seeking to assist the ëhardest to helpí in the country who would now be given the ëextra supportí necessary to push them into employment and stop relying on welfare provisions.

However, Labour have criticised the programme, arguing that its introduction simply reflects the failure of the past Work Programme and scheme, which will be repeated again due to a misunderstanding of the problem by the government.

Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, said: “In fact more people go from the Work Programme, having completed two years on it, straight back to the Job Centre than get a sustained job outcome,” he said.

Joanna Long, of campaign group Boycott Workfare, has criticised the initiative, arguing that it will simply force the unemployed into free work, and not deal with the problem of unemployment across the UK.

“It’s failed to garner support even from the charities that are already involved in its other workfare schemes because even they won’t touch something so punitive as a six-month community service sentence.”

BBC social affairs correspondent Michael Buchanan said identified that the government has persuaded over 70 organisations to join the scheme and supply work experience to the benefit users who it applies to.

However, critics have pointed out that in a number of cases of long term employment, the individual has actively sought employment, and it is other inhibiting factors, such as the lack of employment opportunities within a specific field or area that is organically stopping a multitude of people entering into work.

This would mean that despite the governmentís best efforts, the new scheme is poorly targeted as it seeks to address the area of benefit abuse and lack of ambition in the UK, rather than dealing with the lack of opportunity that people often face in areas across the country.

However, this notion has been reinforced by a recent pilot of the Help to Work scheme, which consisted of over 15,000 individuals being sampled in order to gauge the potential effects of its implementation. Compellingly, the rate of benefit applicants only dropped by 2-4% for those on the new scheme compared to those who are given conventional Job Centre support Jonathan Portes, of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, argued that whilst the pilot suggested that “positive effects” would be incurred by the scheme, that nevertheless these would likely be very small”.

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