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UK’s jobless to lose benefits if they refuse to work

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Tough new welfare rules will strip unemployed claimants of their benefits for up to three years if they refuse the opportunity to work.

Unemployed people who turn down offers of work, refuse to apply for appropriate jobs or fail to turn up for mandatory community work will lose their £65-a-week Job Seekers Allowance, said Prime Minister David Cameron.

The measure, included in the Welfare Reform White Paper being published on Thursday by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, is intended to be in place before 2013 in an effort to cut the bill for JSA, which is claimed by 1.5 million people.

The allowance will be removed for three months on a first offence, six months the second time and three years on the third breach of the new rules. JobCentre advisers are expected to have the power to strip errant jobseekers of JSA and there will be no right of appeal, said officials.

Mr Cameron said the changes would create “clear responsibilities and clear incentives for those on benefit to take steps towards getting back to work wherever it’s feasible for them to do so”.

Job advisers already have the power to remove JSA for up to 26 weeks from people who fail to take up offers of employment, but the sanction is very rarely applied. Government sources said it would be the presumption that the benefit will be forfeited in cases of breach in all but exceptional cases, where compelling reasons are provided for failing to take up work.

Those losing income from JSA will be able to apply for a hardship allowance, worth 60-70% of the benefit (around £39-£44 a week), but this is not expected to be available in many cases.

Mr Duncan Smith told BBC Breakfast: “We right now have a system that traps people, because it is complex, there are so many benefits withdrawn at different rates. People going back to work don’t fully understand whether they are better off or worse, it is almost impossible to make that calculation.

“By simplifying and having one withdrawal rate we will actually make sure people will retain more of what they earn as they go back to work, thus making work pay more than being on benefits. That’s the critical bit.

“We will help people look for work and get them work ready, that will go alongside it. Then, if having done all of that people have a job offer, they should take that work. That’s a condition most taxpayers would accept.”
Source: ITN

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