UK Politics

Unemployed to spend full working week at job centres

Iain Duncan Smith
Image caption Mr Duncan Smith said the government's welfare reforms needed to be accelerated

Plans to force some unemployed people to attend full-time classes at job centres have been announced.

The scheme will apply to some jobseekers before they go on the Work Programme and after they leave it.

It will apply to those jobseekers deemed to need additional help or who are working in the "hidden economy".

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it would "mark the end of the something-for-nothing culture".

'Returning fairness'

He told the Conservative conference the government had challenged the "growing sense of entitlement" in the welfare system inherited from Labour and the effects were slowly being felt in terms of the rise in the number of people in work and a fall in those on benefits.

The number of people not expected to work at all in the future was at the lowest level for two decades, he told activists, while 380,000 had found a job after being placed on the flagship Work Programme - where contractors are paid a fee to get people into a job.

"Our plan is simple. To put work at the heart of the welfare system and ensuring that work always pays. That is returning fairness to the system."

While those unable to work would always get state support, Mr Duncan Smith said those capable of doing so but unwilling to "commit to their obligations" would be forced to undergo a period of "intensive support".

"Selected individuals will receive expert support and supervision while they search and apply for jobs," he said.

"That is nine o'clock to five o'clock - 35 hours a week - for up to six months, simulating the working day.

"Alongside the Mandatory Work Programme and our tough sanctions regime, this marks the end of the something-for-nothing culture."

'Good friends'

The government is already intending to extend plans to require those out of work for more than two years to do community work.

The long-term unemployed who have left the Work Programme without employment will have to undertake work placements, daily visits to a job centre or compulsory training courses in return for their benefits until they find a job, Chancellor George Osborne said on Monday.

Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World at One whether the government would help with bus fares for those taking part, Mr Duncan Smith said he was not making any commitments.

Mr Duncan Smith also insisted he and Mr Osborne were "good friends" despite claims in a book by the journalist Matthew D'Ancona that the chancellor believed the former Conservative leader was not "clever enough" to run a big department.

"I have the Chancellor, George Osborne, a good friend of mine... saying this is all completely untrue, he never said anything of the sort."

People questioned Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher's abilities, he added, but they had the determination to prove their doubters wrong.

"It's a rough engagement in politics because you debate and argue behind the scenes about what you want to do."