Claimants who refuse to do 30 hours’ activity a week should be stripped from receiving benefits in a bid to force them to find work, a campaign group has said.
A US-style “work for the dole” scheme could save £3.5 billion a year in welfare costs and help hundreds of thousands off benefits, the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) argued.
The group has demanded individuals claiming under the new scheme should have their payments automatically suspended if they declined to take part in prescribed activities.
Two thirds of the jobs created since 2000 were taken by “immigrants prepared to work hard rather than rely on benefits” while many Brits “evidently weren’t interested”, it said.
Only the “extreme sanction” of stripping people who refused to do 30 hours’ activity a week of all state help would force them to seek “proper jobs,” they said.
This would include community service, charity work, approved training, work experience or “meaningful” job hunting with officials for as many as 575,000 claimants.
But critics have blasted the idea, branding it “unrealistic” and “demeaning”.
Church Action on Poverty group blasted the TPA’s recommendations, saying most benefits claimants are already actively seeking work.
They accused the TPA of failing to account for the high level of demand for each job vacancy and said they were attempting to undermine the minimum wage.
Joanna Long, from Boycott Workfare, said to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme the plans were nothing to do with helping people get jobs, and were “all about saving money.”
But TPA chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: “You should have to work for the dole.”
“The Government is improving the incentive to work but they need to go further and remove the option of sitting at home and claiming benefits entirely,” he said.
“Taxpayers rightly expect something back for the enormous amount they pay for out-of-work benefits, at the very least a real commitment to find a job as soon as possible.”
Ministers should even seek an opt out from EU rules if necessary to give welfare reforms the necessary bite, the group argued, warning the flagship Universal Credit scheme would otherwise have “limited effect”.
The report, written by entrepreneur and former Conservative parliamentary candidate Chris Philp, said claimants employed for fewer than 30 hours a week would be expected to make up the difference and the time would be reduced to allow for those with childcare “or similar obligations”.
Parents of under-fours and those caring for someone with a severe disability would be exempt as well as OAPs.
Those claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance would be expected to take part in “activity that they are physically able to do.”
The requirement would kick in later for those with a better employment history – after two years for those with five years of National Insurance payments down to three months for those with less than two years.
The group’s proposals received the backing of Labour former welfare minister Frank Field who urged his party to “seriously look again” at the idea.
“The next Labour government must ensure that claimants are not simply left drawing benefit rather than having an offer of work,” he said.
“Benefit payments should help form the pool of resources to fund Labour’s future jobs fund Mark II.”
Universal Credit – which is presently being piloted ahead of a UK-wide introduction – brings together six benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance,Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
It will cost £1.05 billion to administer in the first year.
Stopping all such payments was designed to end the situation where people could claim Housing Benefit and the Child Tax Credit while not seeking work.