YOUNG people who have been out of work, education or training for six months will have to take on unpaid community work if they want to claim benefits under Tory plans announced by prime minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron unveiled the plans at a school in Hove, East Sussex this morning, ahead of a visit to Portsmouth, where the prime minister will confirm deals that will see Magma Structures and BAE Systems set up shop in Portsmouth’s empty shiphall, and Boeing service the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Chinook helicopters at the Vector Aerospace Fleetlands site in Gosport.
The proposals announced this morning will mean 18 to 21-year-olds who have been ‘NEET’ (not in employment, education or training) for half a year before claiming welfare will have to start doing community work before getting benefits.
The scheme will involve around 30 hours a week of community work from day one of their claim, which can involve making meals for older people or working for local charities alongside 10 hours of job hunting.
The prime minister insisted the move would help tackle long-term youth unemployment and make young people realise that ‘welfare is not a one-way street’ and ‘there is no more something for nothing’.
The ‘intensive action’ goes a step further than already-announced Conservative plans to abolish Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18 to 21-year-olds and replacing it with a Youth Allowance.
After six months on the Youth Allowance, claimants will be required to undertake an apprenticeship or community work for their benefits. The allowance measure will apply to those who have been in work, education or training in the six months before their claim.
It is understood that the new plans will not apply to young people who have completed independent work experience in the six months before their benefits claim or the small number of university graduates who could be drawn into the scheme.
Speaking ahead of a speech in south-east England today, Mr Cameron said: ‘Our welfare reforms are a key part of our long-term economic plan. They are not just about saving money. They are about changing lives and making this a country that rewards work and gives everyone the chance of a better future.
‘That is why we are taking further steps to help young people make something of their lives. Our goal in the next parliament is effectively to abolish long-term youth unemployment. We want to get rid of that well-worn path from the school gate, down to the jobcentre, and on to a life on benefits.
‘For those 18 to 21-year-olds who have not been in employment, training or education for six months before they sign on, we are going to take intensive action.
‘What these young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day. So a Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim, as well as searching for work.
‘From day one they must realise that welfare is not a one-way street. Yes, we will help them, but there is no more something for nothing. They must give back to their community too.’
The Community Work Programme policy would apply to the roughly 50,000 new 18 to 21-year-old claimants a year who have been NEET for six months - around 10% of claims.
According to Downing Street, there is evidence that community work placements are more effective in moving claimants off benefits than the normal Jobcentre Plus signing on regime, and one pilot in London with specific requirements to work from day one proved even more successful.
The £20 million policy would be paid for from initial savings generated by the nationwide rollout of Universal Credit.