Page last updated at 19:03 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 20:03 UK

'Work for dole' proposals leaked

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Ministers are due to publish welfare proposals on Monday

Ministers are considering plans to force long-term unemployed people to work for benefits, according to a draft of proposals to be published on Monday.

A "work for dole" scheme would require people to do "full time activities" to benefit themselves and their community.

The leaked document says everyone other than severely disabled people, carers and parents of young children should be expected to look and train for work.

The Tories say many of the ideas were put forward by them six months ago.

The government is due to unveil its Welfare Green Paper for England and Wales on Monday - but a draft copy leaked on Friday suggests it will contain US-style "work for dole" programmes and a reassessment of all existing incapacity benefit claimants.

It says, for a small group of people, repeated spells on out-of-work benefits have "become the norm" and said the government would "continue to increase what we expect of people the longer they've been on benefit."

For too long certain groups have been left to drift into long-term inactivity and become detached from the labour market
James Purnell

The government has already announced plans to make young people who have been out of school, training or a job for six months to do at least four weeks' "work related activity" .

The document suggests extending that to the long-term unemployed and says while it has yet to consult on how the schemes would work, they would involve "individuals engaging in a variety of full-time activities of value to themselves, their community and prospective employers."

It also suggests new rules to allow private firms which help people find jobs to be paid, from the resulting savings in benefits.

Fraudulent claims

In a letter attached to the leaked draft copy, Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said: "There are currently a record number of people in employment but for too long certain groups have been left to drift into long-term inactivity and become detached from the labour market.

"The proposals we are putting forward will replace the 'one size fits all' welfare state and move us closer to a welfare state which ensures no-one gets left behind."

In February government welfare adviser David Freud suggested less than a third of the 2.7 million people claiming incapacity benefit were doing so legitimately.

Many of these proposals first appeared in our Welfare Green Paper six months ago
Chris Grayling

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling welcomed the document, but said it was the Conservatives who had put forward most of the ideas.

"Once again it is Conservative ideas that are setting the political agenda," he said.

"Many of these proposals first appeared in our Welfare Green Paper six months ago, and it would be great news for Britain if the government is finally planning to introduce the kind of radical change that we have been arguing for."

Increased pressure

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman Jenny Willott said the green paper "ignores the fact that over half of the adults living in poverty in the UK are in work".

She added: "Personalised back-to-work support represents progress, but this paper fails to address the needs of those with mental health problems, who make up 40% of those on incapacity benefit."

Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said many of the proposals would increase pressure on parents and disabled people.

She said: "If so many who are not working want employment then there is absolutely no need to ratchet up conditions and threats.

"A better strategy is to ensure decent jobs with decent conditions. Rushing parents into inappropriate jobs risks poverty pay and jobs which undermine family responsibilities."

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