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Six month unpaid work would be an expensive failure says a think tank

Date: (30 July 2012)    |    

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Almost one million people will be forced to work unpaid for six months if a new government work scheme is extended across the country, a think-tank has said.
A pilot of the community action programme (Cap), Under the Department for Work and Pensions has been completed which is to be rolled out to other areas after an announcement this autumn, people on jobseeker's allowance for longer than three years must work for six months unpaid or have their benefits stripped from them.

Two weeks ago the employment minister, Chris Grayling, flagged his intention to introduce the scheme, recently renamed support for the very long-term unemployed, across the country to tackle the rising number of chronic unemployed, driven up by a inactive economy.

A lowest estimate, by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion(CESI) predicts that over a five year period starting in June 2013, 1.78 million people will be unable to find work through the government's current two-year-long employment scheme, the work programme, even if targets are met.

CESI estimates that of those failed by that programme, 1.35 million will be claiming jobseeker's allowance (JSA) as opposed to sickness and other types of out-of-work benefits. A further 378,000 people will stop claiming even though they will not have found work. In total the think-tank predicts that between 2013 and 2018, 972,000 will stay on JSA who will have been completely out of work for more than three years and will be eligible to be sent to work for free for 26 weeks.
The same figure would reach 1.06 million if the economy remains dormant. Grayling told the Guardian that the programme’s development was still in its initial stages and no predictions could be made.
Separately, a 41-year-old jobseeker who refused to attend Cap on the grounds that it was "slave labour" is waiting to hear from the high court whether he was won a judicial review.
During the case last month the court heard that Jamieson Wilson, from the Midlands, was suppose to wash and clean furniture for an unnamed organisation for six months without any pay. After refusing to take part in the "exploitative" scheme, Wilson, who trained and worked as a mechanical engineer and an HGV driver and has been unemployed since 2008, was stripped of his benefits and was now "relying on family and friends" to survive.
A decision in the case, which could affect the outcome of all mandatory work schemes, labelled by employment campaigners as "workfare", is expected before 10 August.
Dave Simmonds, CESI chief executive, said rolling out Cap could prove to be a very expensive mistake.

Referring to recent DWP research which showed that a one-month mandatory work scheme had "zero effect" in helping people get a job, Simmonds added that it could prove to be a very expensive failure if it doesn't get people into jobs, and past evidence on this is mixed.

Speaking about the CESI forecast, Grayling said: "We believe that full time community work should be a part of the support we provide to the very long term unemployed. But we are at an early stage of trialling different options, and so these estimates are pure guesswork."