In a major new report, the TaxPayers’ Alliance today outlines the next stage for welfare reform in the UK, Work for the Dole. Despite the creation of over three million jobs between 1997 and 2012, the number of people in the UK out of work has remained stubbornly high, even in times of prosperity. Work for the Dole, a programme of mandatory participation in community work and training in return for the continued payment of benefits, is the next step in getting people off welfare and into work. Based on successful programmes across the world, it is estimated the scheme would lead to annual savings of £3.51 billion and help 345,000 people off benefits over time.
Work for the Dole proposes that, after a certain time, anyone claiming the Universal Credit should undertake compulsory activity or – if claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment Support Allowance – activity that they are physically able to do. It would address the problem, as described recently by Lord Hutton of Furness, of those “who choose consciously not to work “.
Importantly, the length of time before someone is automatically referred onto the scheme would be dependent on their National Insurance (NI) contributions. Those with a history of paying National Insurance would be referred onto the scheme after up to two years of claiming Universal Credit while those with little or no history of NI contributions would be expected to participate after three months of claiming Universal Credit. This would give more latitude to those who have paid into the system and strengthen the contributory principle in out of work benefits.
The introduction of Work for the Dole would end the ability to subsist on benefits instead of seeking work:
Polling has shown that the public overwhelmingly support the idea (net agreement of +75%) that those who can, should do full-time community service for their benefits. Even59 per cent of benefit claimants themselves now think benefits are too high and discourage work. Current reforms as they stand are not enough to fix welfare dependence. Work for the Dole would eliminate a great deal of fraud and provide a powerful incentive to seek a proper job while at the same time helping participants with the experience and credentials needed to get them onto the job ladder.
Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“Welfare should be a safety net for people who fall on hard times, not an alternative to working. The Government is improving the incentive to work but they need to go further and remove the option of sitting at home and claiming benefits entirely. Taxpayers rightly expect something back for the enormous amount they pay for out-of-work benefits, at the very least a real commitment to find a job as soon as possible. You should have to work for the dole.“
Chris Philp, author of Work for the Dole, said:
“Despite the record number of jobs created in the UK economy in the last decade, welfare dependency remains a problem that costs taxpayers a fortune and ruins lives. Politicians of all sides acknowledge that that the current system encourages welfare dependency. Work for the Dole programmes in other countries have shown that this problem can be beaten and dependency dramatically cut. The public resoundingly back the idea that claimants should contribute for the benefits they receive and it’s time politicians caught up. Work for the Dole is an idea whose time has come.”
Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, former Minister for Welfare Reform, responded to the publication by saying:
“Labour needs seriously to look again at Work for the Dole. The next Labour government must ensure that claimants are not simply left drawing benefit rather than having an offer of work. Benefit payments should help form the pool of resources to fund Labour’s future jobs fund Mark II.”