The government’s planned reforms to unemployment benefits will lead to jobless people being compared to offenders, Liverpool’s deputy mayor has claimed.
The reforms will affect Liverpool in particular as 160,000 or around a third of houses are effectively ‘jobless’ compared with 14.5% in the south-east.
Those who have received benefits for three years will be required to do 30 hours of community service a week in order to continue to receive them, under government reforms.
Failing to do so could lose them their benefits for four weeks. Failing to do this a second time would see them lose out for three months.
Labour councillor and the city’s deputy mayor Paul Brant said: “The programme is being promoted as an attack on the ‘shirkers’ who the Conservative ideology would blame for the current deficit.
“I welcome any attempt to ensure that the workless find jobs and are properly skilled but this proposal forces the workless to work on community service projects – drawing a comparison with offenders.
“Jobseekers need time to gain the right skills and to apply for jobs. I fear that this proposal will condemn people to pay below the minimum wage, and divert them from activity which will actually ensure they get employment – such as applying for jobs.”
During the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans for a new policy to reduce the bill for the jobseeker’s allowance and tackle what he calls a ‘something-for-nothing’ culture.
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Labour councillor Nick Small, the city council’s Cabinet Member for Employment, Enterprise & Skills, said: “The reforms are bad for society. These reforms would demonise unemployed people and they’re bad for the economy.”
He blamed the government for the current level of unemployment benefits paid out after their “failed welfare to work programme”.
Mr Osborne claimed compulsory community work would put something back into the community and would involve work such as making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter and working for a local charity.
He added that there would be an “intensive regime of support” for those with problems such as drug addiction and illiteracy that affect their ability to work.