From education to employment

Benefit claimants to face sanctions for failing to prepare for work

James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has published a welfare reform white paper that seeks to "transform" the lives of those claiming benefits.

Under the proposals, individuals receiving state help will be forced to attend interviews and undertake some form of work, including community service, or face sanctions.

Mr Purnell said: "We will give people the support they need and in return we will have higher expectations on people to take up that support. I believe it is wrong to have a welfare system which doesn’t encourage people to prepare for or get back to work."

The bill will incorporate many recommendations from the Gregg Review last week, which said that anyone on benefits, apart from the seriously ill and disabled, carers and parents of children under one, should either be actively searching for or preparing themselves for work.

However, the planned changes have received criticism from Labour backbenchers, such as John McDonnell, who believes the Government had "got its priorities wrong".

Mr McDonnell commented: "It is lunacy to force people into jobs that are not there and to force lone parents to take up childcare which is either unaffordable or non-existent."

The Government believes welfare reform is crucial for getting the UK through the current recession, and it remains at the centre of legislative proposals over the next year.

Pictured: Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell

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