The British government has unveiled its controversial overhaul of the welfare system.
It has promised to help the jobless get back to work but threatened sanctions for those who avoid it.
Anyone on benefit who turns down a job, fails to apply for work when asked to do so or does not complete a four-week community work scheme loses their 65-pound (76 euros) a week benefit for three months.
If they do that twice there is a six month exclusion and for a third time their benefit is cut for three years.
Ian Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Under this government, choosing not to work if you can work is no longer an option. That is why we are developing sanctions for those who refuse to play by the rules, as well as targeted work activity for those in need to get use to the habits of work.”
The government is focusing on Britons who have not worked in a long time; the changes are also intended to simplify the complex benefits system and reduce errors, fraud and inefficiencies.
Critics said this will just punish the poor and unemployed, forcing many people to take arbitrary jobs without taking into account their personal circumstances.
Heather Howearth, who claims jobless benefits, gave her reaction:
“I can understand them saying some people will need work experience. But, to take their benefits away… There are many reasons why people are at home, I mean, hundreds don’t have the confidence to get out there. And going out and doing street cleaning is not going to build their confidence or whatsoever.”
Unions and charity groups complained the changes are unfair, based on stigma and treat people as if they are criminals.
But the conservative think tank Policy Exchange insisted it had been shown to work.
Its Director, Neil O’Brian, said: “The evidence from other countries, from Canada and from America, is that this kind of programmes – where people are required to take work – are very effective. Some US states managed to reduce the number of people on benefits by as much as 90 percent. So it’s a huge success.”
The opposition Labour party said it supports a system that gives people incentives to find jobs but warned it would not work if there were no jobs available.