Derbyshire welfare-to-work trial rejected by 60 on benefits

At least 60, or 10%, of benefits claimants have refused "mandatory" unpaid work they were told to do under a trial scheme in Derbyshire.

Jobseeker's Allowance can be cut if people refuse to do unpaid work, under regulations introduced in 2011.

Firms including Burger King, Waterstones and Maplin withdrew from voluntary work experience schemes after they were compared with slave labour.

But the government said the schemes make people more employable.

A UK-wide scheme called the Work Programme includes unpaid work experience, but this is voluntary and is aimed mostly at people who have been out of work for more than 12 months.

'Kind of slavery'

The pilot scheme in Derbyshire makes people do unpaid work after five months of unemployment.

Andrew Thomas, district manager of Derbyshire Jobcentre Plus, said: "After five months, I think it's reasonable to say to jobseekers that actually what we need to do is make sure that you've got those basic work employability habits to help you in the next stage of your career."

Gary Parker, from Allenton in Derby, is among those taking part in the trial, called the Derbyshire Mandatory Youth Activity Programme (DMYAP).

The 19-year-old feels the scheme is "kind of slavery".

"I have no choice," he said. "If I don't go I don't get any money."

He accepts he has mixed feelings though, thinking the scheme could help him to get a job.

Eight-week placements

About 600 unemployed people were allocated placements in the first two and a half months of the trial, from 12 November to 31 January.

About 60 people declined to do the placements and were referred to a "decision maker", who can decide whether to cut their Jobseeker's Allowance.

Only one person has had their benefit cut.

More than 50 people have found work either as a result of the programme, or after they were referred but before they started.

The trial will last for a year but figures are not yet available beyond 31 January.

The scheme originally targeted people aged 18 to 24, but on 25 February it was extended to people aged up to 34.

The placements last for up to eight weeks, with up to 30 hours of work a week.

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