'Encourage' don't force jobless, urges Ieuan Wyn Jones

Image caption,
Ieuan Wyn Jones urged politicians to work together

The deputy first minister has said long term unemployed people should not be forced into work.

Ieuan Wyn Jones AM told the BBC Politics Show the long-term unemployed needed "encouragement" rather than anything compulsory.

Long-term benefit claimants could be forced to do manual labour under proposals to be outlined by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Placements in work like gardening and litter-clearing may feature.

"I think people do need encouragement, there's no doubt about that," Mr Jones told the BBC.

"There are far too many people who perhaps generation after generation who have not been able to find work.

"What we've got to do is work together - I'd be very happy to be working with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on schemes to do that but forcing people into doing it is not the answer".

Under new plans expected to be announced by the UK Government later this week, long term claimants of job seekers allowance could be forced to do four weeks of unpaid community work or face having their benefit cut.

It is thought the UK Government wants to bring in compulsory placements which would involve working for 30 hours-a-week on projects such as litter-picking or gardening.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, says the welfare plans could drive people into a "downward spiral of despair".

'Not to punish'

The deputy first minister Mr Jones told the Politics Show Wales he did not think it should be mandatory for people to do unpaid commuity work because they were on welfare benefits.

He added: "There are a number of people in Wales who've been on benefit for a number of years - encouraging those people back into work is much more important."

"The Welsh Assembly Government has been working extremely hard - particularly in those areas of Wales where unemployment and economic inactivity has been high and we've had a measure of success where we can put adequate resources in.

"If the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) would agree to work with us, I'm pretty sure we could crack the problem without forcing people into this kind of work".

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, says the plan will help people into the jobs market.

He told the Politics Show the "purpose is emphatically not to punish and it's not to humiliate".

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