Feelings run high as new rules come into force


Rhian Waller

NEW rules, recently passed by the Government, now affect those who have been out of work for an extended period of time.

They will oblige long-term jobseekers to sign on daily, attend ‘voluntary’ work placements or face having their benefits stopped.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “A key part of our long-term economic plan is to move to full employment, making sure that everyone who can work is in work.

“We need to look at those who are persistently stuck on benefits.

“This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.”

Mr Cameron and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith say there are 600,000 job vacancies in the UK at any one time.

Critics argue that Mr Cameron’s goal of reaching full employment with “secure full-time positions” is an impossibility, as there are more than two million people currently unemployed and more than one million on Job Seeker’s Allowance.

Many of the 600,000 jobs advertised are not full time.

People who spoke to the Leader were critical of the new measures, but many said it was “about time” these measures were put in place.

Deborah Armstrong of Queensferry contacted us on Facebook to say: “It’s wrong. What we need is more jobs.”

Pete Bartley of Flint, however, made the point that compulsory voluntary work was not voluntary.

He said: “It is not practical. It will cause people to lose their job because employers will have free labour.”

Jayne Humphreys, 34, of Bagillt, said: “What about those who live quite far from the jobcentre? They will be spending all their money getting to and from there every day. It doesn’t seem practical to me.”

Wrexham councillor Arfon Jones echoed her concerns, saying: “With the bus services the way they are and will be in the future, jobseekers will spend more time travelling than they will looking for work.”

Paula Williams, 42, of Flint, said: “There is not much work around. It’s not that people don’t want to work – most do.

“If people have to sign on every day, then they will have to use their benefits to get there if they are not in walking distance, which means less for food bills.

“There must be another way to help people back into work.”

Anthony Turner, 32, of Wrexham, said: “In my eyes no civilian should be “forced” to do anything. Criminals maybe. But this is way too much of a dictatorship.

“Ask yourself the question: would you really work 30 hours for slave-labour benefit rates?

“I sincerely doubt it. I think it’s wrong. I work full-time, by the way.”

Em Greening, of Wrexham, said that voluntary work wasn’t necessarily a pathway to paid work.

She said: “My partner and I look for work every day and get nowhere, so how is travelling back and forth to the jobcentre going to help?

“Voluntary work makes no difference whatsoever. I have been doing voluntary work for 15 years and I still get no job offers or an interview.”

Shaun Harrison, 32, of Wrexham, said: “If people haven’t worked for years then yes, they should work.

“Even voluntary work gets you experience to get a paid job, and if people claim they can’t work send them to get checked out.

“There are jobs out there– just some people are too picky.”

Hayley Maggs, 28, of Wrexham, thought this measure could weed out some benefits cheats.

She said: “The things is, some people are on benefits and work cash in hand.

“If they are working in the pubs at night signing on daily wouldn’t solve the problem with them (although it would with people working cash in hand in the day).

“Something needs to be done with people on benefits. I work and struggle to make ends meet.”

But Jayne Hughes, 51, of Wrexham, pointed out that people could start regarding “voluntary” work as a job in its own right.

She said: “Question – if a person volunteered say 20 hours a week to “earn” his job seekers allowance, could he class himself as working?”

Julian Lloyd Roberts, 40, of Chester, said: “[It’s a] brilliant idea. Let’s hope there’s not a way round it. It’s about time.”

Susan Grice, 39, of Chirk, responded to those who said that jobseekers could cover the costs of commuting to the job centre by walking or cycling.

She said: “Walk from Chirk to Wrexham? I don’t think so. Bus fares are expensive. If you sign on every day you have to spend a bus fare every day. That’s taking food money away from my kids.” Gary McConnell, 29, of Queensferry, said: “I have to get up every morning for work so why shouldn’t job seekers get up each morning to sign on?

“Although I don’t think anybody should have to work for free. You should get paid or there will be companies taking advantage of free labour.”

Syvlia Jones, 54, of Bagillt, said: “It’s about time something was done. I work six days a week, not because I want to but because I have to to.

“I don’t know how they can sit back and wait for their handouts.

“It makes my blood boil knowing I pay £500 a month in taxes just to help out people who don’t wantto work.

“Help them get back to work and stop sponging off the rest of us hard working people.”

But Ray Dodd, 39, of Flint was frustrated that people were buying into the “blame propaganda” and stigmatising the poor. He said: “Have some thought for those struggling, their esteem is rock bottom already.

“Those playing the system need sorting out, but this puts everyone in the same boat.

“Before you jump on the bandwagon, remember it only takes a little misfortune for unemployment to hit anyone.”

Andy Johnson, 30, originally of Connah’s Quay, said: “I think this is the best idea to date.”

He added: “I did voluntary work for a month and I got a full-time contract.

“It was the best thing I ever did and the jobcentre didn’t even do it for me. I did it off my own back.”

See full story in the Leader

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