The feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing U.S.-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks for just £1 an hour in a new crackdown on scroungers.
And if they fail to turn up on time or work hard they will be stripped of their dole for three months.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will tomorrow unveil ‘compulsory community placements’ in an attempt to stop people living on benefits for years without bothering to look for work.
The ‘Workfare UK’ project will be targeted at tens of thousands of people suspected of sabotaging attempts to make them work.
The measure is a key part of David Cameron’s drive to slash Britain’s annual £192 billion welfare budget.
But Labour MPs condemned the scheme. One said: ‘This sounds like slave labour.’
The scheme is also likely to run into fierce opposition from some Liberal Democrat MPs.
Under Mr Duncan Smith’s anti-scroungers blueprint, employment office chiefs will be given the power to order the long-term jobless to take part in four-week mandatory work schemes.
Instead of receiving their usual £65-a-week Jobseeker’s Allowance for sitting at home doing nothing, they will get substantially less – and will have to clock on and off on time and work flat out.
The Government has not decided how much people on ‘community placements’ will be paid but it is understood the figure will be between £30 and £40 a week – the equivalent to £1 an hour, one sixth of the minimum wage.
They will also be expected to look for a ‘proper job’ for when they complete the scheme. Each participant will be expected to spend at least 30 hours a week on their specified ‘work activity placement’.
If the unemployed fail to turn up on time or work hard they will be stripped of their dole for three months
A Coalition source said: ‘We cannot go on allowing tens of thousands of people to wilfully avoid getting a job. Some go to great lengths to sabotage all efforts to help them find work. That is partly why the welfare bill has gone up so much and it is why hard-working taxpayers get so angry.
‘Some have been out of work for so long that they are literally incapable of obtaining or holding down a job. They have lost the discipline and all sense of work ethic.
‘This programme is designed to address that. It is not intended to apply to people who have genuinely tried to find work or who genuinely cannot work.
Some people have simply got out of the habit of working. Hopefully this scheme will help them get back into a nine-to-five routine.
‘But is it meant as a sanction? Yes – and we are convinced it will have an effect.
‘All research shows that when sanctions are applied to those who can work but try to avoid it, they soon get the message and get off their backsides.’
The projects will involve all kinds of work, from gardening to clearing litter, repairing vandalised bus stops and buildings and street cleaning.
There are an estimated five million people stuck on various kinds of out-of-work benefits in the UK. Britain now has one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe, with 1.9 million children living in homes where no one has a job.
The proposals are part of a Government White Paper on welfare reform which will herald a bonfire of dozens of complex benefits, to be replaced by a more straightforward single Universal Credit.