Benefit changes could hit local claimants hard

PUBLISHED: 11:00 01 May 2014

Archant

NEW legislation to encourage the long-term unemployed into work could offer little help to some North Somerset claimants, according to a local caseworker.

Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan-Smith this week laid out new measures which will require some claimants to appear at a jobcentre every day or agree to undertake 30 hours of unpaid community work a week to receive their Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA).

The new rules, which come into force on Monday, will affect anyone out of work for three or more years, and are set to hit 200,000 jobseekers nationwide. Latest figures show 565 people aged 18-64 in North Somerset have claimed JSA for 12 months or more.

North Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau’s case worker, Sara Leeroth, said that claimants in the authority could be hit hard by the new restrictions.

She said: “We have a lot of clients in this area who have come here because they are in recovery and many of them will be thwarted because of their criminal records.

“It doesn’t matter how long they look for jobs per week, when that news comes back it will cause a problem. I have a client who has been fine for five years but before that was in difficulties, and it is causing them a real issue to get any kind of job.

“We do need a conditional regime saying what is expected of people but this new system maybe trying to frustrate people off benefits and there are concerns that the job centres aren’t going to be able to cope.”

The announcement has come in for criticism from some charities, including Oxfam, who said that voluntary work should remain voluntary.

Those claimants obliged to sign-on every day could be forced to do so for up to 13 weeks, with the time and location of their meetings liable to change every four weeks.

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