Young people out of work, education or training for more than six months could be made to do unpaid community work to get their benefits, Prime Minister David Cameron says.
The prime minister claimed the proposals would stop young people from getting “sucked into a life on welfare”.
The proposals will mean 18 to 21-year-olds who have been “Neet” (not in employment, education or training) for half a year before claiming welfare will have to start doing community work before getting benefits.
The scheme will involve around 30 hours a week of community work from day one of their claim, which can involve making meals for older people or working for local charities alongside 10 hours of job hunting.
The “intensive action” goes a step further than already announced Conservative plans to abolish jobseeker’s allowance for 18 to 21-year-olds and replacing it with a youth allowance.
Mr Cameron insisted the move would help tackle long-term unemployment and make young people realise that “welfare is not a one-way street”.
Talking ahead of a speech in south-east England, Mr Cameron said: “Our welfare reforms are a key part of our long-term economic plan. They are not just about saving money. They are about changing lives and making this a country that rewards work and gives everyone the chance of a better future.
“That is why we are taking further steps to help young people make something of their lives. Our goal in the next parliament is effectively to abolish long-term youth unemployment. We want to get rid of that well-worn path from the school gate, down to the jobcentre, and on to a life on benefits.”
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned it would do nothing to help young people get jobs. He said Labour would introduce paid starter jobs instead: “It’s shocking that the number of young people stuck on the dole for more than a year has doubled under David Cameron. For tens of thousands of young people who cannot find work this is no recovery at all.
“As a country we simply cannot afford to be wasting the talents of thousands of young people and leaving them stuck on the dole for years on end. It’s bad for them, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for taxpayers who have to pay the bill.”