Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 15:59 UK

Tories outline plans for jobless

Chris Grayling
Chris Grayling is proposing mandatory back-to-work programmes

Jobless people will be made to get up and get out of their homes every day to take part in work-based activities, under Tory plans to shake-up benefits.

Under-21s who are unemployed for three months will be sent to employment "boot camps" and community work programmes.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling warned that under a Conservative government "doing nothing will not be an option".

But the Department of Work and Pensions says the plans "simply don't stack up".

In a speech at the Centre for Policy Studies in London, Mr Grayling said "breaking the cycle of worklessness" would be one of the "crucial challenges" for the next Tory government.

Why on earth are we paying out vast amounts of money to keep people out of work, when jobs are there and being filled by people from overseas?
Chris Grayling
Shadow work and pensions secretary

He accused Gordon Brown of using the easy availability of migrant worker to avoid the need for reform of the welfare system to help British people into work.

Since 1997 more than half the new jobs created have gone to migrant workers, while nearly five million British people "remain stranded on out-of-work benefits", he said.

The Conservatives want to create a Britain "where it is no longer possible to spend long periods of your life on benefits at home doing nothing".

This includes getting inmates leaving jail back into work quickly to reduce the risk of them reoffending - and English lessons for those whose lack of language skills are stopping them finding employment.

"In future, there will be strict conditions on the future receipt of benefits," said Mr Grayling.

'Tougher rules'

Anyone struggling to find a job, but who has the potential to return to work, would take part in "structured and usually near full-time activity".

Under Conservative plans, a network of back-to-work centres would be created across the country, which will provide something for benefit claimants "to do every day".

"We want them to get people into the habit of being out of their homes and active all the time," he said.

There would be long-term community work programmes for those not yet ready to re-enter the workplace and tougher rules for under 21s claiming JobSeekers' Allowance.

Losing benefits

"There'll be employment 'boot camps' and community work programmes for those who don't find a job."

Anyone under 21 still jobless after a year would be moved to a full-time 12-month community work programme, with those who turn down a job losing their benefits.

During his speech Mr Grayling also said Mr Brown had "used migrant labour as the easy policy option".

He said government financial projections had operated under the assumption that workers would come from abroad to fill vacancies in the British economy.

"Why on earth are we paying out vast amounts of money to keep people out of work, when jobs are there and being filled by people from overseas?

"Why has the government stood idly by while such an absurd situation develops?"

Financial impact

"Migrant workers have helped boost economic growth and his reputation as chancellor at a time when the economic picture would have been somewhat less rosy without the financial impact of people moving into Britain from overseas," he said.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman denied Mr Grayling's claims, saying: "This simply doesn't stack up. "There are one million fewer people on key out-of-work benefits since 1997, and the claimant unemployment rate is at its lowest since April 1975."

He added that there were 600,000 job vacancies in the economy and that the government was implementing radical welfare reforms to ensure that people who could work, did work - including changes to incapacity benefit criteria.

Chris Grayling outlines the Conservative proposals for employment 'boot camps'

A spokesman for Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said as most young people find a job within six months, the three-month scheme would be a "waste of public cash".

"In April this year, 210,700 18-24 year olds claimed for up to six months while only 30,700 claimed for 6-12 months, falling to only 6,000 after 12 months," he said.

At present, under-24s who have been claiming Jobseekers' Allowance for six months or more must take part in the government's New Deal programme for young people.

This scheme, which involves a personal mentor and work experience, helps young people look and prepare for work.

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