(1) Dole Queue Goes to Work (2) LAST HOPE FOR THOSE CONSIGNED TO SCRAPHEAP; (1) Benefits Stop If Unemployed Refuse Training (2) 'Anything Is Better Than Being Jobless'

Daily Mail (London), November 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

(1) Dole Queue Goes to Work (2) LAST HOPE FOR THOSE CONSIGNED TO SCRAPHEAP; (1) Benefits Stop If Unemployed Refuse Training (2) 'Anything Is Better Than Being Jobless'


Byline: DAVID HUGHES;CHRIS DEERIN

Workfare came to Scotland yesterday as the Government stepped up its campaign to shake out shirkers from the dole queues.

Encouraged by the success of two pilot schemes in England, Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth has targeted 9000 long-term unemployed north of the Border.

The move is an attempt to cut the social security bill and give the unemployed added impetus to find work, as well as offering extra training opportunities.

Across the UK, the Project Work initiative will cover 100,000 long-term unemployed aged between 18 and 50 at a cost of [pounds sterling]100 million.

Ministers are convinced that the fall in benefit claims make it a worthwhile

investment.

Mr Forsyth said: 'This initiative will equip the long term unemployed with real skills to get real jobs in today's challenging environment.

'Project Work will help those who genuinely want to work whilst hindering the benefit cheats. Job finding skills should be sharpened so that more people can move off benefits and into work.'

However last night the opposition parties attacked the scheme and accused the government of attempting to 'cook the books'.

Under the programme dole claimants receive 13 weeks of job-search training followed by 13 weeks of compulsory work experience.

Those on work experience get a [pounds sterling]10 bonus on top of their normal benefit payments - but refusal to attend work experience leads to complete loss of benefit.

The programme has been piloted for six months in two areas - Hull and Maidstone, Kent - and has led to 1,100 people moving out of benefit.

In Scotland, the scheme will be introduced in Edinburgh, Lanarkshire, Dundee and Dunfermline.

Mr Forsyth said he was 'very encouraged' by the results of the pilot schemes, which showed that 25 per cent more people were leaving the unemployment register than in comparable areas.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine threw his weight behind the programme, saying he had been 'very impressed' when he visited the Maidstone pilot scheme.

Mr Heseltine said there were three types of people who made up the long-term unemployed.

The first was those who lacked literacy and numeracy skills and so could not hold down a job.

Others had become 'dispirited' by being unemployed for so long and had lost the will to look for work.

The third group were those who were working on the black economy while still claiming benefits and so cheating the taxpayer.

'It is clear that this approach is helping people who have not worked for a very long time to refocus their efforts to find a job,' Mr Heseltine said.

'People are succeeding in entering work, often after many years of dependency on state benefits. This is something the Government wants to encourage and I welcome the extension of the Project Work approach to a much larger number of people and to many more parts of the country.'

In some parts of the UK private sector employers will be approached to hire long-term unemployed people for up to six months in some of the new Project Work areas.

Among those leaving the scheme in Maidstone and Hull to find jobs had been people who had found work in horticulture, the retail trade and the construction industry.

Shadow Scottish Secretary George Robertson said the scheme was a 'second rate plan' designed to manipulate the unemployment statistics.

'There is no evidence that workfare leads to real employment for the long term unemployed,' he added.

'The Government are not making any real contribution to getting people into lasting work.

'Instead, by experimenting with workfare schemes in Scotland they are simply trying to cook the books, keeping the dole figures down without providing any hope or opportunity to the long term Scots who deserve better. …

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