Unemployed young adults could lose their benefits if they don’t agree to do work placements with community groups, the government said in the Autumn Statement today.
During his speech to the House of Commons, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: "Starting in some areas at first, anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without basic skills will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their benefits.
"If they are still unemployed after six months, they will have to start a traineeship, take work experience or do a community work placement – and if they don’t turn up, they will lose their benefits."
The accompanying document issued by the government also reaffirms the government’s commitment to removing the benefits of adults who have been out of work for more than two years if they fail to take up community work placements.
Under the government’s new £700m Help to Work scheme, job centre staff will be given the power "to mandate claimants to community work placements" if they are short of basic employment skills, experience and motivation.
This would involve working full time for six months to maintain local green spaces, clear up litter or work for a local charity, it says.
The move comes after the government lost an appeal in the Supreme Court in October over a ruling that its back-to-work schemes were legally flawed.
The case concerned the museum volunteer and Birmingham University graduate Cait Reilly – who claimed that requiring her to work for the retailer Poundland without pay breached laws on forced labour – and the unemployed HGV driver Jamieson Wilson.
A spokesman for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said in a statement that it had reservations about today’s proposals: "While there is a clear role for charities to help people gain employment skills through volunteering, charities will want to come to their own decisions about whether to take part in the proposed scheme that would oblige young jobseekers to do community work. Quite obviously, work that is mandatory isn’t volunteering and shouldn’t be mistaken for volunteering."
Dom Weinberg, policy manager at the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, said in a statement that it was pleased that the Chancellor was taking steps to address youth unemployment. He added: "Young people certainly need more support in accessing employment, but we would prefer a supportive rather than punitive approach because most young people would prefer to take advantage of opportunities rather than not."