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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 16:09 GMT
Q&A: Tory work for benefit plan
The Conservatives have announced plans to get the long-term unemployed back in to the jobs market.

What are the Tories proposing?

Those who have been out of work for two years or more, in total, would have to do unpaid community work or lose their work-related benefits. Anyone refusing three "reasonable" job offers would also lose benefits.

What sort of work would they have to do?

Cleaning up local parks and public spaces and other tasks that will benefit the community.

Will those taking part have to wear uniforms?

It will be down to the private companies running the schemes, the Tories say. The party insists it is not a "punitive" measure but is instead designed to break the cycle of benefit dependency.

How will this help people get a job?

Those on the dole for a long time lose touch with the world of work, the Tories say. They need to get back into the habit of turning up on time and working with others before they can get a paid job, the party argues.

Does that mean if I lose my job I would be forced to do community service?

All job seekers would be screened as soon as they start claiming. Those with a "track record" of claiming benefits would be referred to special, privately run "back-to-work" centres straight away. Others would be given a "grace period" to find a job. After two years you would be forced to do community work.

What would happen if I was offered a job I did not want?

Under a "three-strikes and you're out policy", anyone who refuses a "reasonable" offer of employment would lose one month's benefit for the first job offer, three months for the second, and up to three years for the third.

What about those on incapacity benefit?

The Tories have said they want every one of the 2.64 million people on incapacity benefit to be assessed by a doctor. If they are judged fit for work they would be moved to Jobseekers' Allowance, a cut of 20 a week, and expected to get a job.

How will unemployed people feed their families if their benefits are stopped?

Tory leader David Cameron has said there will still be a "safety net" for those who persistently fail to comply with back-to-work schemes or find a job. They will not lose their housing benefit or child benefit.

Where did the Conservatives get the idea from?

Australia and America, principally. The workfare scheme in New York cut the number of jobless in the city by more than a million, although there was no reduction in the overall cost to taxpayers. In Wisconsin, the number of welfare claimants was cut by 82% after payments were cut for those who refused work, but critics say it left many people relying on handouts from charity.

How many people would be affected?

The scheme is particularly targeted at the 68,000 people on Jobseekers' Allowance for more than two years and the 16,000 on Jobseekers' Allowance for more than five years. There are also 2.64 million people on incapacity benefit - the Tories believe about 200,000 of them could be brought back into the workforce.

How do the Conservative plans differ from what the government is doing?

Labour has also decided to get tough on the long-term unemployed - but it has focused its efforts on training and skills. In future, those who refuse to go on training courses could face benefit cuts - but those who complete courses could get cash bonuses. People claiming incapacity benefits also face tougher tests. The government has also secured agreements from firms to take on 300,000 long-term unemployed people.

What has Labour said about the Tory proposals?

Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the Tory proposals do nothing to address the lack of skills among the unemployed which he says is the real reason they cannot find work. He says Labour's plans are "more modern, radical and up to date".

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