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Page last updated at 02:35 GMT, Monday, 6 June 2011 03:35 UK
Can a welfare-to-work scheme get Rhyl back on the job?

Rhyl's promenade
Rhyl's seafront added to its prosperity before travel abroad

Panorama's Vivian White visited Rhyl on the north Wales coast to meet some of the people affected by the government's planned welfare reforms. In one area of Rhyl, half of the adults are on out-of-work benefits - one of the highest figures in the UK.

Plumb in the centre of this seaside town that was once a popular holiday destination, there is a pub called Last Orders.

It is a somewhat challenging name because it happens to be right in the middle of an area where things have gone badly, depressingly wrong.

The dire unemployment numbers here are what brought us to Rhyl.

We came to meet some of the people affected and to see what the town itself has done to try to solve its welfare problem.

Not any job. I'd have to like the job
Steve Falvey, unemployed in Rhyl

And to see if the coalition government's "welfare revolution" is making a difference.

This month sees the launch of the Work Programme, which pays organisations - from voluntary groups to public and private organisations - incentives if they get people off welfare and into work, as long as they stay in work.

Other changes proposed include replacing six income-related work-based benefits with a single universal credit from 2013.

The government says it will make sure people are always better off in work, there will be an annual benefit cap of about £26,000 per family and those refusing to work face a loss of benefits for up to three years.

Labour MP Chris Ruane was raised in Rhyl and is involved in local back-to-work initiatives.

He arranged for Ray Worsnop, who has worked in markets all his life, to set up the new open-air market in the town centre, where he ran a course which aims to turn people on benefits into market traders.

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Vivian White presents Panorama: A Job to Get Work

Monday, 6 June

8.30 on BBC One

"I was brought up when there were lots of jobs and I was brought up with work ethic," Mr Worsnop said. "And now that we have two or three generations of unemployed, I'm really worried that the work ethic isn't there."

Mr Worsnop said he hoped teaching others the life of a market trader might make a difference and encourage them to not give up on finding work.

Christine Ibbotson is one of his students in the market experiment.

She is on incapacity benefit as she waits for an operation to treat a chronic wrist problem and says she would much rather be working.

"I'm not staying on the sick, no way, I don't want to," she said, although she added that after being out of the workforce for a long time, she was daunted by the government's move to reassess everyone receiving incapacity benefit with an eye to returning many to work.

"It's not the thought of getting up or anything like that. It's just, I don't know, it is a bit frightening," she said of being reassessed.

'Complete revolution'

MP Mr Ruane was also a key player in creating Rhyl's "City Strategy" which helped to fund a new cafe and restaurant on the waterfront called the Taste Academy.

At the cafe, you will likely be served by, and your food prepared by, people recently on benefits. It is a six-month training scheme and new eatery all in one. It should turn out people poised to find employment in the sector.

But Mr Ruane has a bleakly critical view of the plan for welfare reform: "If you get the big stick out too soon, too early, when there's no jobs there or even worse, when the job opportunities are diminishing, you'll be driving people back on the streets."

Employment Minister Chris Grayling disagrees: "There's absolutely no reason for anyone to end up on the streets as a result of what we're doing."

Job centre plus
In the ward of West Rhyl, half of adults are on out-of-work benefit

Mr Grayling called the government's plans "a complete revolution in welfare to work" and defended the new approach to providing benefits, including the three years' loss of benefit if someone repeatedly turns down jobs that are on offer.

"The only people who put themselves in danger of finding their benefits stop are those who are capable of doing so and wilfully say 'I refuse to engage with the system,'" Mr Grayling said.

Steve Falvey, 21, father to a baby girl, has taken part in the local football club's Strikers programme that aims to boost self-confidence and life skills and get the long-term unemployed used to being on time and organised.

He has already had his benefits reduced under the existing rules for not applying for a job that he did not like the sounds of.

He said he wants to work, but added: "Not any job. I'd have to like the job, like I said."

Panorama: A Job to Get Work, BBC One, Monday, 6 June at 2030BST and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.



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