A controversial “tough love” bid to get the long term unemployed back into work by offering them placements in return for benefits was today questioned by Blackpool’s town hall boss.
The Conservative Party’s Help to Work scheme aims to get those people on Jobseeker’s Allowance back into employment and ensure they do something to earn their benefits.
From April, people who are still jobless could face losing their benefits.
Business leaders, councillors and MPs have all given their thoughts on the scheme, announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn branded it a “puzzling” move – but others have supported it.
Coun Blackburn says central Government cuts will hit Blackpool hard.
He added: “The £37m cut that Osborne and his Cabinet colleagues intend to inflict on Blackpool Council over the next two years will lengthen dole queues, not shorten them – so this is just another example of the Tories saying one thing while doing another.
“The DWP told ministers in a 2011 report, that previous similar initiatives had failed to make an impact.
“That George Osbourne is now recycling such plans, having already been told they don’t work is therefore puzzling.”
Martin Long, chairman of Blackpool Business Group, said: “Those against it will say there are no jobs out there so what’s the point in doing this, but, on the other hand, people should show willingness to look for work and do what is expected of them.
“There’s got to be a purpose and an outcome behind the scheme and it can’t be a case of just turning up at the Job Centre, it’s about what happens when they do turn up.
“It’s good to be constructive and people have to go along and show their willingness to find work, but I’m not sure it will have a direct effect on the economy.”
Unemployed people will stay on the scheme until they find work, unlike the current scheme which is limited to six months.
Paul Maynard, Tory MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “Abandoning the long-term unemployed to a lifetime on benefits isn’t the right approach, so I welcome this focus on a ‘something-for-something’ deal for those who haven’t been able to find work despite being referred to the Work Programme for two years.
“This is an extension of existing schemes of work placements, and should help everyone be ‘work-ready’. Of course, it also requires Government to do all it can to promote economic growth and create jobs for more people.
“With unemployment falling, and more people in work than ever before, we’re clearly making progress, but these schemes will allow us to tackle some of the underlying problems why people may be struggling in the job market.”
A breach of the Government’s rules will result in losing four weeks’ worth of benefits for a first offence and three months’ worth a second time.
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, added: “From what I understand he (Osborne) is trying to be fair to both people on benefits and people who pay for benefits, i.e the taxpayer, which is the right approach.
“I think the taxpayer would say that as well because people who are on benefits in the long term should be making an effort and get out of the house to work for their benefits.
“It sets a good example to children as well.
“Instead of seeing generation after generation going without work, they see their parents and relatives working.”
Coun David Eaves, leader of Fylde Council, said: “I’m aware of efforts to assist people back into work and if that’s the sole intention of this scheme then I support it.
“It’s quite clear there will be a considerable amount of detail in this but if it assists people to get a work ethic then I will support it.”
Coun Penny Martin, leader of Wyre Council’s Labour Group, added: “My biggest worry is that if we have all these people working for free, are these not jobs that people could be doing and being paid for?
“It worries me because if we were talking about clearing a play area in a park there might be somebody who would be paid to do that.”