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Long-term unemployed to work six months for free

A new Government work scheme could mean almost 1 million long-term unemployed people being forced to work unpaid for six months to keep their benefits, a think tank has warned – though ministers have said that figure is “pure guesswork”.

A pilot of the DWP’s Community Action Programme (Cap) has now finished and its national roll-out is expected to be announced this autumn. People on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for longer than three years would have to work for six months unpaid, or risk losing their benefits.

The Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion (CESI) estimates that over five years, starting in June 2013, around 1.78 million people will be unable to find work through the Work Programme. Of these, 1.35 million will be claiming JSA.

In total the think tank predicts that between 2013 and 2018, 972,000 people who have been completely out of work for more than three years will stay on JSA and so could be sent to work unpaid for 26 weeks.

Dave Simmonds, CESI chief executive, said: “These numbers speak volumes about the nature of long-term unemployment in a recession, where those with the greatest barriers are often pushed to the back of the jobs queue.

“Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme will have already tried to find jobs for these people – with sanctions hanging over them all the way through. We have to be careful about a one-size-fits-all solution for the very long-term unemployed by requiring them to work for their benefits.

“It could prove to be a very expensive failure if it doesn’t get people into jobs – and past evidence on this is mixed.”

Responding to the CESI forecast, employment minister Chris Grayling told the Guardian: “We believe that full time community work should be a part of the support we provide to the very long term unemployed. But we are at an early stage of trialling different options, and so these estimates are pure guesswork.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Coco-UK   30/07/2012 at 13:08

This could be of benefit to the jobless if it provides them with useful work experience that they can put on their cv.

W L Scales   31/07/2012 at 12:50

Will they receive any help to get to work such as bus/train fares. I note from recent contact with someone unemployed DWP are placing people in jobs up to 15 miles from where they live. Many on JSA cannot get credit owing to unpaid credit card bills from unemployment. Bus fares can cost up to £7.50 or more per day. Train fares are higher for those travelling in the morning peak.

AR   03/08/2012 at 09:24

So these "972,000 people who have been completely out of work for more than three years" have actually been dodging work-offers all that time, and now need to be dragooned back into the workforce? Anyone who's been out of the work-routine for that long *is* quite likely need a measure of support and "encouragement" to get back. But the root of the problem is that there's nothing to get back to; unless Ministers, "think tanks" and employers get together to do something about that, this is simply kicking people who are already down.

Assaf Shalvi   07/08/2012 at 16:08

I think it's a question of changing employers' mindsets, not just the long-term unemployed. Create more short-term and temporary jobs. Don't be as afraid to offer jobs as some people are of the sometimes over-complex process of applying for one. Get people working quickly without all the administration and paperwork. Get them used to earning and getting job satisfaction, but unlike this scheme, let them make the choice to do that themselves. Our company connects employers to employees by text message, a format that people are totally comfortable with using to connect. Interviews and covering letters are not within comfort zones and time pressures sometimes. We all, including the Government, need to be more realistic and positive about what job seekers can and will do, and what makes them respond.

Christopher   10/08/2012 at 08:50

I think this scheme has potential and as long as it is presented correctly as an encouraging step towards finding permanant work then I feel this initiative should be applauded. One of the other comments on here spoke about this being good work experience and something to place on a CV however this initiative will only work if businesses and organisations are willing to participate. I feel this scheme could benefit from merging with the apprentice schemes that have popped up.

Danny   08/10/2012 at 15:14

I agree with any scheme that will allow people to return to (or even experience for the first time) work. Seems to me however that the more governments tinker with changes to the age for retirement, the less work opportunities will be available. Perhaps we need some joined up thinking on this, a holistic view that takes account of the implications of raising the state pension age to a point that people cannot afford to retire. This situation will be exacerbated to some extent by the very recent ruling that employees cannot be forced to retire at 65. If people cannot or will not retire, there will be no real, lasting job opportunities for our young people. Knee jerk reactions to our current economic plight are only making the situation worse.

Ray   29/11/2012 at 14:25

This could be useful if managed properly with supports for people into employment and financial support for travel to work and lunches - some of the unpaid intern schemes run by voluntary organisations provide a good model where the cost of going to and being at work is provided. Are the jobcentre staff going to help find placements in a time when there are major job cuts? will there be some liaison with employers to ensure that some skills are developed or acquired to improve future job prospects? will on the job training be provided? This could work if adequately supported or it could be an unmitigated disaster with thousands unable to find work and losing benefits.

Mark   03/12/2012 at 13:15

Why shouldnt people who are physically able and receiving JSA's or unemployment benefits, housing Benefit and the myriad of other benefits be made to work. There are a number of roles in the community that could be undertaken and I ask "why should benefit recipients do nothing" work for benefits dont work - no benefits - work can include volunteering - something in very short supply in most communities.

Greg   17/12/2012 at 16:21

This will displace earned work and lead to a rise in unemployment

MISSSCANT   09/01/2013 at 10:39

well said, Assaf Shalvi, I totally agree!

Stephen Rowe Bschon's   15/01/2013 at 01:00

86% of science graduates can't get work, 86% of science graduate jobs are done by immigrants, there you go and that's why i haven't got a job . Send them home and give British jobs to British born people. Ow i forgot the skills shortage British are unskilled idiots i suppose like Micheal Faraday and Isak Newton and Dalton , yes no wonder we have to be replaced by foreigners Faraday what an idiot hey.

Lizzles   18/03/2013 at 13:14

I agree with W L scales, how on earth does the government expect these people to travel on pittence, give them travel vouchers instead of cash then there is no excuse to say they can't get there. Yes I agree people should work for their benefits if possible and a thouragh health check should be made, if you are fit to work YOU WORK, get people off their backsides, the world or this country does not owe them a living they earn it like the rest of us have to. If we had not become an EU country in the first place we wouldn't be having this trouble, the pound would stand strong, brits would have british jobs, we would eat and buy from british farmers, unemploment would go down, ourr industries could afford to compete with foreiing companies, the retirement age be limited at 65 and better pensions, seems simple doesn't it but you'll always find some beurocratic idiot ruining things....

Mark   13/05/2013 at 14:06

Its about time the unemployed did their bit for society by way of voluntary work. They should be forced to do it or lose their benefits. Take a look at our streets... rubbish and graffiti everywhere. Make the unemployed clean it up to "earn" their benefits. When they realise that cleaning the streets in the cold and wet is tough work, they might realise that a job at the local supermarket stacking shelves or serving people at a fast food chain isn't such a bad thing.

Ruth   17/06/2013 at 13:16

Given that young people can't get work, people at the other end of the scale have to work longer and public sector workers are being axed every day, I cannot see how it all adds up there just isn't enough work for everyone. What if receiving benefits was actually regarded as a career choice instead of making it sound like people are being forced into work. With all the cuts going on services could be topped up by receivers of benefits, still a days pay for a days work like other workers. Change the stigma element, then there would be enough to go round in conjunction with reductions in foreign workforce engagement.

Gerry   02/09/2013 at 13:50

Why is it that because someone is unemployed they are automatically seen as a scrounger. If the government can find unpaid work for this many why can't it find paid work for those that are actively seeking it, I know of at least 5 people who have been seeking work for the last two years but have only been able to find casual, temporary or no hours contracts, soul destroying to say the least

Richard   03/11/2013 at 01:44

Some people are trapped in houses that are too exspensive and the minimum wage will not cover the rent,it's nearly impossible to get a council house,there needs to be a proper council house building programme with reasonable rents so people can get back to normality.

Mike S   25/11/2013 at 12:00

And can guarantees be given that this 'work for free' would not be taking away from paid jobs? Answer, No! It makes far more sense to make provision for genuine, full-time, long-term, paid employment.

Clive English   15/09/2014 at 21:49

Perhaps the science graduate writing above has not achieved employment because he seems to have trouble constructing a sentence.

Linda   23/04/2015 at 08:14

I run a small business and I'd love to offer employment to others, but ... and it's a big BUT. The rules and regulations around employment mean that I can't afford to take the risk. This means I'll continue to fill the need I have by using freelancers and other small businesses. All other small business owners I know feel exactly the same way.

Kirsty   01/06/2015 at 13:36

What a great idea, perhaps the wording is wrong expecting people who have been out of work for three years to "work for nothing" as this is fundamentally wrong and demeaning, however if the "work" was providing new skills and a recognised qualification helping people after the six months, then this could be a positive move.

Cllr.Roy Driver (Stockport)   22/10/2015 at 16:14

Forcing long term unemployed to work for nothing is modern day slavery and a pathetic attempt to cut the figures for political reasons. Better to invest public and private money to create viable employment in depressed areas including the steel towns such as Redcar.

Malcolm Grade   10/12/2015 at 12:30

Great. I think everyone should work for benefits. Why should I pay wages when I can get employees for free? I look forward to the day when all employees are given the Equivalent of unemployment benefits for their work. Why pay more?

Michael   11/01/2016 at 14:46

If you take a long walk in close to zero temperature. When you get the shivers take a some deep breaths and concentrate on relaxing. Then keep walking until very tired. Then lay down and go to sleep. Avoid areas where dog walkers go. As they will try to "Rescue" you. And we all know how abusive society can be when the medical profession gets its claws in to you.

Flower   24/01/2016 at 13:45

A recognised award or certificate with decent, detailed, up-to-date reference would be a huge encouragement and, encouragement is just what these demoralised people need! Also look at the AGE of those unemployed, and recognise just how rampant ageism is, in the recruitment process. It's really dreadful for over 55's, no matter how well qualified and experienced. Companies are side-lining excellent employees, and HR depts have sly techniques and excuses in use ROUTINELY! Put some undercover 'interviewees' out there, to find out what is going on and what laws are being broken in these companies every day. Racial discrimination wouldn't be treated as lightly as age-discrimination is! There's a LOT of it about!

Malcolm Grade   08/02/2016 at 12:40

I have 23 employees and I think about how much more profit I could make if the job centre sent me them for free. I could sack my existing workforce and take them back on as benefit recipients. Moreover, If they were not working as well as I need them to I could make a quick call to the DWP and have the work shy scum sanctioned for non compliance and get a new body (hopefully with good qualifications and experience) that I could then exploit to the full. bring it on.

Caroline   04/08/2016 at 12:38

Malcolm Grade what a parasite you are. I'll bet your employees love you. (Not)

Patricia   14/08/2016 at 09:04

I work in the sector supporting people back into employment and work - I am still stunned by the amount of people who think cleaning up rubbish/graffiti and the like is the only option for those unemployed to do as a get back to work effort. They are people not machines. As some of the contributors have said it needs to be a more joined up approach between government, education, employers, communities and potential employees. In my view this will only be done with more understanding all round.

Maureen   06/11/2016 at 23:32

I work for am organisation which support people back into work. I have worked in the role for over 25 years and in this time met people from all walks of life. A majority of these individuals are unemployed due to circumstances. However, there are a minority who cannot be bothered to find work as they know the system too well. I agree with the community programme but again it should be matched to individual skills and interests, not everyone enjoys cleaning road, footpaths and gardens. Let give people some meaningful work which can lead to a job, if they really want to work. This does not a lot more joint up thinking by all government bodies and people who work in the field and have first hand experience.

Maurice Neville   07/12/2016 at 11:32

The Government persists in its belief that for welfare policy to work the beatings must continue until morale improves. Whereas the substantial financial incentives for the rich will continue as normal.

Lynne Allen   13/03/2017 at 13:26

Sounds like another way of Tory friends making money on the backs of the poor. Can just see all the companies lining up to take part particularly those away from public eye. Why pay a wage when you will get staff free. The Unemployed will become Factory conveyer belt fodder. Shameful.

Lindsay   08/05/2017 at 14:14

I think that it should be voluntary, anyone who does should be guranteed a job by the employer.

Malcolm   12/07/2017 at 12:19

This has been done before it old and out dated and most people will end up back on Jsa at the end just as they to under thatchers and major give the Labour Party a chance via revolution smash the torys and the rich

Jean Johnson   14/10/2017 at 13:51

I think this is a great idea as it will get the unemployed into the work ethic and should improve their confidence and may even help them get a full time job.

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