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The Government is going to reform the 16 hours rule, which currently meant people on Job Seekers Allowance and IB lost benefit entitlement if they were studying or training for more than 16 hours per week. This would be reformed in order to remove the disincentive built in for people on benefit to train.

The Government would also make some reforms to incapacity benefit. As well as the mandatory skills check for new claimants of incapacity benefit, the Government would also roll out the Pathways To Work programme, a programme of intensive support for new recipients of incapacity benefit. This would be rolled out to existing claimants as well, so there would be a new requirement on those receiving incapacity benefit, under the age of 25, to go into the Pathways To Work programme and for example be required to attend work-focussed interviews.

In an environment where the Government knew that the number of unskilled jobs available in Britain was going to fall dramatically over the next decade, it was therefore important that those people who were on benefit, were given much stronger incentives and support to get the skills necessary to prepare for the workforce of the next decade.

Asked what would happen if people on JSA did not take up mandatory training, the PMS replied that people would lose their benefit entitlement. It would be a requirement of receiving JSA in these pilot schemes, that people would move on to mandatory training. Asked where the five and a half million unskilled jobs would disappear from, the Prime Minister's Spokesperson said that there had been a report that was published in the PBR 2006 by Lord Leitch, which gave a very detailed analysis of likely trends in employment and the skills composition of the workforce up to 2020. The PMS said that this would be the best place to look for the detailed analysis people were looking for.

Asked how long the pilot schemes would last for and was the intention to role it out on a national scale, the PMS replied that clearly the Government would not be piloting something if there wasnt a general desire to move in that direction. It would be a big step and it was a complex area. Every individual had different needs so there might be different ways in which it could be done. The point of the pilots was to examine how this might be done in practice. The PMS added that it was actually quite common in this area to pilot schemes of this kind, before they are rolled out nationwide.

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Asked when the pilots were starting, the PMS replied that people should check with DWP, but the Government would try to do it as soon as it was practical.

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