Iain Duncan Smith will announce a radical new pilot programme today, targeted at those who are proving hardest to get back into work.
The Work and Pensions Secretary has identified two particular groups for special attention: those who remain unemployed after going through the Work Programme, and new jobseekers who lack the skills to start their search unassisted.
The intention is to reduce the number of very long-term unemployed, whilst intervening early to help those at risk of joining their number.
The pilot, which will launch next year, will see claimants in both groups required to attend the Jobcentre for 35 hours each week. Their time will be spent searching and applying for jobs, with supervision and assistance from Jobcentre staff.
As well as the increased chance of finding employment, the scheme will ensure that those involved become used to normal work hours.
Employers’ organisations, such as the Institute of Directors, have reported that some workers escaping long-term unemployment struggle to adapt to the workplace routine. They expect the scheme to improve the expectations and attitudes of its participants, further raising their chances of finding a job.
Iain Duncan Smith is expected to communicate a tough line to the Conference, saying,
“We will do everything we can for those who have come through the Work Programme and still don’t have a job.
But for those who aren’t doing all they could, or who we think are cheating the system, it is time to make very clear that enough is enough.
That is why we are also launching two pilots for full-time mandatory attendance centres.”
The compulsory element of the scheme continues a theme established yesterday in the Chancellor’s speech. Polling suggests the public overwhelmingly support the principle of working in return for benefits.
Iain Duncan Smith’s speech will draw implicit comparisons with the Labour Party’s reputation for a soft line on welfare. “No attendance. No benefit. That is only fair,” he will say.
There will be 6,000 participants in the pilot scheme, who will be drawn in equal numbers from each target group. All of them will have to attend daily sessions for up to 6 months, with the expectation that the hothousing approach will see many of them secure jobs before that period is up.
Duncan Smith expects vocal opposition from Labour, and is clearly ready to go toe-to-toe with the Opposition on the issue. In an interview with ConservativeHome on Saturday, he told Andrew Gimson:
“Where Labour get their biggest negatives is when they’re associated with welfare, they want more of it, and that’s a negative for them. That’s why they’ve banned ‘welfare’ as a word. They don’t use it now, they won’t use it.”