David Cameron’s keynote welfare speech yesterday, described by The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour this morning as “the most ambitious set of specific proposals for reducing the welfare state since 1945″, included the re-announcement of a Labour policy which he scrapped when the Tories came into government.
One of the prime minister’s 17 ideas to cut an extra £10 billion from welfare is the requirement of anyone on jobseeker’s allowance to undertake full-time community work such as tidying up a local park, Cameron explaining:
“In Australia, robust, rigorous activity such as ‘work for the dole’ is standard after just six months.”
A policy remarkably similar to Labour’s ‘Work for your Benefits’ programme (pdf), part of the Flexible New Deal, set to come into force in November 2010 – until the coalition announced it would be scrapped.
Now it appears they are bringing it back, forced into another reverse because of the failure of the Work Programme.
“A melange of populist initiatives, without any overarching strategy or argument either about the future pressures on the welfare state, and the priorities it should embody, or about the balance between the principles, such as need or contribution, underpinning it.”
• Charity survey shows up shambolic work programme 1 May 2012
Amongst the other headline measures are plans to remove access to housing benefit for anyone aged 16-24, which the government claims will save £2 billion a year and affect 210,000 social housing tenants, time-limiting benefits by reducing their levels if someone is out of work for longer periods, and imposing a new specific cap on housing benefit so it is worth no more than £20,000 a year.