Britain demands jobless work for state hand-outs

MANCHESTER - Britons who are out of work for several years will be required to work full-time on community projects to receive state unemployment payments, finance minister George Osborne will announce on Monday.

The proposal is the latest attempt by the Conservative-led government to reform the benefits system, which Prime Minister David Cameron says does not provide enough incentives for people to go out to work.

It will be announced at the party's annual conference in Manchester, northwest England, in a bid to woo traditional conservative voters ahead of the 2015 general election.

Although the Tories are starting to close the gap in the opinion polls with the opposition Labour party, they are threatened on their right flank by the anti-immigration, anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP).

From April, the long-term unemployed will be forced to either do 30 hours a week of community work - such as picking up litter, making food for the elderly, working for charity - or attend a jobcentre every day.

People who break the rules once will lose four weeks benefit worth about £230 (S$466), while a second infringement could cost them three months, officials said.

The so-called "Help to Work" scheme will be open to people who have failed to find a job through the government's main work programme, a two-year process which provides support, training and work experience.

Britain is slowly emerging from a deep recession and unemployment is falling, reaching 7.7 percent in May to July this year, but long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high.

Official figures from the same period reveal that 469,000 people have been out of work for more than two years, up 27,000 from a year earlier.

"For the first time, all long-term unemployed people who are capable of work will be required to do something in return for their benefits to help them find work," Mr Osborne will announce.

"And for those with underlying problems, like drug addiction and illiteracy, there will be an intensive regime of help.

"No one will be ignored or left without help. But no one will get something for nothing."

The Tories claim the economic recovery is a vindication of their austerity programme, which remains unpopular and drew tens of thousands of trade unionists out in protest in Manchester on Sunday.

But Mr Osborne will insist that he is not complacent, saying: "This battle to turn around Britain it is not even close to being over."

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