Changes have been brought in today that affect two different groups of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants:
- 'pre-work programme' claimants: i.e. relatively new claimants, who have not yet attended a work programme;
- people in 'long-term unemployment': in practice, those who have been unemployed for more than three years.
'Pre-work programme' claimants
- Day one conditionality - this will require new claimants to show that they are looking for work from day one. In practice this means that they will need to set up an e-mail address, prepare a CV, and register on the Jobsmatch website. Although the government states that Jobseekers who do not claim online will be helped to do these things by a 'work coach', it is not clear (at least to me) how this will be help to claimants who are not IT literate. This requirement will be rolled out gradually between now and October 2014.
- Mandatory English language requirement - claimants (at first in England only) whose English skills are assessed as being below the required standard will be required to attend training to improve their skills. On the face of it this seems sensible, but only if the resources are available to enable this training to be provided properly.
- Quarterly work search interviews.
- Weekly work search reviews - These will be phased in for 50% of claimants between now and October 2014.
People who have been unemployed for more than three years
Claimants who are not in work after three years will be required to do one of the following:
- Attend the Jobcentre every day (normally at their own expense).
- Attend a 'community work placement' - i.e. work as a non-voluntary volunteer (the examples given by the government are 'gardening projects, running community cafes or even restoring historical sites and war memorials') - for 30 hours per week for 6 months (plus 4 hours per week supported jobsearching).
- Intensive Jobcentre support - for claimants with with 'multiple or complex barriers to work'.
Failure to comply with this will result in an initial sanction of 4 weeks, with a further sanction of 13 weeks for a second failure to comply.
I've already my opinions clear with regard to daily signing and community work placements in a previous post: http://benefitsowl.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/conservative-party-conference.html
Unfortunately for the government, many of the charities who might be expected to provide the community work have boycotted it - http://keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/ . The Independent reports:
'The charities have noted that the maximum community service order that someone might receive if they were found guilty of drink-driving or assault is 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes will have to work without pay for more than double this time.'