Hartlepool MP slams plan to make long-term jobless do community work for free

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

HARTLEPOOL’S MP has hit out at tough new Government rules to make the long-term unemployed do full-time community work for free.

MP Iain Wright says the plans, which will come into force next year, are a “knee-jerk reaction” and “ill-thought through response” to the state of unemployment in the country.

From April next year, jobless people still on the dole after two years will have to earn their benefits by carrying out unpaid work.

The unemployed will face three options if they want to remain on the dole:

l either do community work such as litter picking,

l visit a job centre every day,

l or take part in compulsory training to tackle problems like illiteracy.

Those who break the rules of the new Help-to-Work scheme, for example by failing to turn up without a good reason, could lose their benefit for four weeks. A second offence would see them lose it for three months.

Mr Wright told the Mail: “I don’t want people to languish on benefits but if they have to take several hours out of every day getting to the job centre, for example, and that stops them looking for a job and getting meaningful employment, then it’s just counter-productive.”

Potentially, around 200,000 long-term Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants could be eligible for the new coalition initiative.

But ministers believe the numbers on it will be significantly lower, as many of those working covertly will decide it is no longer worth trying to claim benefits and drop out.