Benefits could be suspended for jobless

Jobless people should "spend nine to five" looking for work or doing community service, or face losing their benefits according to a new government-commissioned report.

Submitted by Rob Ray on December 2, 2008

This would add to recent proposals to end secure tenancies for the long-term unemployed unless they can prove they have been job-hunting.

The report, brought out by professor Paul Gregg, a strong advocate of welfare to work programmes, was commissioned earlier this year to look at ways to extend punitive measures for people who have been out of work for long periods. Gregg suggests in his report that un-cooperative people could have their benefits stopped for up to four weeks as a punishment for not joining community service-style schemes.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said he "strongly welcomed" the report, adding: "The direction of travel is the right way."

The report comes as the new welfare reform bill comes into effect, which, based on a report by the city financier David Freud, would see those on unemployment benefits face tough penalties if they failed to take up job offers. They will also force single parents of 12-year-olds and above to go back to work or face losing benefits.

The bill has seen heavy criticism from union groups and civil rights advocates who say the bill will come into effect just as a huge swathe of society is thrown out of work by the recession.

It also dovetails with plans by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears to remove the right of people to stay in their homes indefinitely, suggesting that in future only the most hard-up families could qualify for council housing, would be signed up for fixed terms, and could be removed from it if their situation changed or they can be shown to have failed to look for or acquire jobs.