Jobless will have to learn work skills or have their benefits cut in crackdown on unemployment

Benefit claimants will need to complete an intensive back-to-work programme to avoid losing their allowances under new plans to tackle unemployment.

Four areas of the country are already piloting the two-week scheme consisting of daily face-to-face jobcentre appointments designed to get people back into work.

Refusal to attend would see benefit claimants losing all of their universal credit for up to three months, worth £334.91 per month for a single person aged 25 and over.

The programme will apply to unemployed claimants who have been out of work for 13 weeks – as after this their chances of returning to the workplace drop significantly.

The government believes that the scheme could form part of a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to encourage people into working.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said: ‘Evidence shows that the longer a person is out of work the harder it is for them to return, and it is at this 13-week point that a claimant’s likelihood of securing employment begins to decrease.’

He has written letters to the MPs of areas in West Sussex, West Yorkshire, Glasgow and Leicestershire where the programme is being piloted explaining that the new programme will improve employment chances.

‘This additional jobcentre support will both improve claimants’ prospects of finding more work at a time of cost of living pressures and boost economic growth by helping more people move towards and enter the labour market.’

The programme will still use the existing sanctions system and people’s universal credit standard allowance will be docked if they miss appointments. The more appointments people miss, the more of their payments they lose. 

Currently job searchers meet with work coaches once a week during the first three months of unemployment and then fortnightly after that.

More than 1.2million people in the UK are unemployed and the Government believes that the back-to-work scheme will help lower this figure.

A further 9 million are also neither in a job nor looking for one.

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