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Benefits concern for work experience scheme

The employment minister is meeting firms taking part in the Government’s controversial unpaid work experience programme today, after ongoing criticism from protestors who have branded it ‘forced labour’ and decisions by some companies to quit the scheme.

The work experience programme is aimed at 16 to 24-year-olds unemployed for more than three months but less than nine months. Participants have an unpaid placement for two to eight weeks, working 25 to 30 hours a week.

Young people can take part whilst retaining their jobseeker’s allowance, but stopping the placement short after more than a week could result in benefits being cancelled for two weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions says between January 2011, when the scheme started, and the end of November 2011, 34,200 people took part, of whom 220 had their benefits docked.

It is this compulsion element that has worried some companies, with high-profile names like Burger King, Waterstones and Maplin having abandoned the scheme and others reviewing their involvement.

Grayling said that half of those who took part in the scheme found work, often with the company that placed them on work experience.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We are offering young jobseekers the opportunity to get invaluable work experience which plays a vital part in helping people get into the jobs market.”

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