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Policy Exchange: Public overwhelmingly supports work-for-your-benefits schemes

Workfare more popular than job guarantee scheme for long-term unemployed but think tank warns against one size fits all approach.

Everyone should be made to work for their benefits except mothers with young children, according to a new poll published today.

In a new piece of analysis, Policy Exchange found that the public supports strict conditions for the long-term unemployed. The YouGov poll of 1,930 people carried out in September shows strong support for the introduction of workfare schemes – forcing jobseekers to carry out work experience or community work in order to receive their benefits.

When given a list of specific groups of individuals who should be exempt from workfare, the public felt that only mothers with young children should be excluded. People with physical and mental disabilities who could work should work as should dads with young children, according to the public.

Workfare schemes are also far more popular than taxes being used to guarantee jobs for the long- term unemployed. By a margin over three to one (56% compared to 17%) people would rather the government make people work for their benefits rather than introduce a scheme that guaranteed long-term benefit claimants a job at the National Minimum Wage using taxpayers’ money.

The findings show:

  • By a margin of nearly five to one (56% compared to 12%) people supporting the introduction of workfare for the long-term unemployed compared to the status quo.
  • Two thirds of people (67%) felt mothers with children under the age of 4 should be excluded from doing community work in return for their benefits. Interestingly, only 38% felt fathers with children under four should be excluded from workfare.
  • Only 1 in 4 (25%) thought people with mental disabilities who are capable of working should be excluded from workfare.
  • Only 1 in 5 (22%) thought people with physical disabilities who are capable of working should be excluded from workfare.

Responding to the findings, Policy Exchange warns against rolling out workfare for large numbers of benefit claimants as the costs could rise into the billions of pounds each year. This would be a poor use of taxpayer money and forcing people to work when they are not physically or mentally ready could also have a detrimental effect.

However, the report said that the government should pilot workfare schemes for specific groups of jobseekers including:

  • Some individuals who leave the Work Programme without finding work after at least two years of support due to lack of trying or lack of experience.
  • Under 25s with little or no work experience and older jobseekers who have been out of work for at least six months and who do not have significant experience of work.
  • Jobseekers who are not meeting their requirements to look for work

Ed Holmes, senior economics fellow at Policy Exchange, “Making people work in return for their benefits is clearly popular with the public but workfare is not suitable for everyone. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of grouping all jobseekers together. Many people face significant barriers to work that need to be addressed in different ways. However, for some benefit claimants the experience of work could be effective in helping them find a long term job.

“These findings underline that fact that the public feel it shouldn’t be the responsibility of government to prop people up and find them work. As well as being expensive and often relying on public sector employment, such an approach ignores the fact that, with the right support, it should be the responsibility of benefit claimants to seek and get into work.”

Click here to download the full report.

For more information contact Nick Faith on 07960 996 233

Notes to editors

YouGov carried out an online poll of 1,930 adults between 3rd and 4th September.


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