Concerns have been raised in Sheffield about ‘headline-grabbing’ plans to force jobless into unpaid work.
Chancellor George Osborne announced the proposals at the Conservative Party Conference – vowing to end Britain’s ‘something for nothing’ culture.
He proposes that unemployed people who have been on the ‘Work Programme’ for more than two years should either have to sign on at a job centre every day, take further courses in literacy or numeracy, or carry out unpaid work.
Failure to comply would lead to benefits being stopped.
However, Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, accused Mr Osborne of ‘demonising’ the poor and said he should be concentrating on boosting the economy to create jobs.
Community groups in Sheffield had mixed feelings about the plans.
Stephen Rich, of Greenhill and Bradway Tenants and Residents’ Association, said: “To a degree, Mr Osborne’s proposals would be a good idea, but only if the unpaid work helps people to get a job.
“It is pointless forcing a university graduate to pick up litter, for example.
“There should be some help to cover costs such as transport.”
Mick Daniels, of Brushes TARA in Firth Park, said: “Unpaid work experience is a good idea because it helps people get a job, but I would be concerned about firms using them as free labour.
“There are also people who have recently been moved on to jobseeker’s allowance off incapacity benefit – what sort of work would they be given?
“It’s a headline-grabber which hasn’t been fully thought through.”
Mr Blomfield said: “This plan would only affect a small number of people - about 200,000 nationally.
“Mr Osborne should concentrate on creating real jobs rather than demonising those out of work.”
Brightside and Hillsborough Labour MP David Blunkett added: “What this announcement does not address directly is the scandal of almost one million under-25s out of work or education.”
Outlining his new Help To Work scheme, Mr Osborne said: “People are going to have to do things to get their dole and that is going to help them into work. They will do useful work to put something back into their community – making meals for the elderly, clearing up litter, working for a charity.”