UNEMPLOYED people in Bradford must hunt for jobs from “nine to five" or be stripped of benefits, under a controversial new crackdown.
The city, which has more than 14,500 people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, has been picked for the first trial of a Government scheme to target benefit claimants who “lack motivation” to find work.
From next month, they will be required to visit a Jobcentre every morning to sign an attendance register, then spend the whole day working on job applications.
Ministers say the jobseekers will be given intensive help with important skills such as compiling CVs, writing covering letters, timekeeping and interview techniques.
But the policy also carries a big stick – a threat to remove benefits from claimants who fail to hunt for jobs for 35 hours each week, for three months.
A first breach of the rules will trigger a loss of four weeks' benefit and the second will mean forfeiting three months' money.
The Jobcentre Plus offices in Bradford, Keighley, Shipley and Leeds are among 64 across the country that will carry out the trial.
Staff began handing out factsheets today to jobseekers claimants not on the Work Programme or taking part in a community work placement.
Not all claimants at those centres will take part – and lone parents and carers might not be required to attend for the full 35 hours a week.
But the scheme last night divided opinion among the district's MPs with those in the coalition Government supporting it, while those in opposition heavily critical of it.
Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) said: “I’m completely in favour of this scheme on every possible level, I think it’s a great initiative.
“It’s quite right that unemployed people treat looking for work as a full-time job, it is completely unacceptable for them to be loafing at home watching TV. "
David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said: “If it is something that can help people get back into work, then it must be seen as a good thing."
But George Galloway (Respect, Bradford West) said: “This idea is a joke and yet another waste of money. It’s a compliment to call it half-baked, it’s not even in the oven.
“It is a horrendous imposition on some people who are genuinely claiming benefits.
“The scheme sounds like prison, it’s madness.”
And Gerry Sutcliffe (Lab, Bradford South): “I’m not sure this scheme gives a motivation to find work, and I don’t think keeping people cooped up in a job centre all day is the way forward."
In total, about 6,000 people will take part, across West Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Sussex and Surrey.
Esther McVey, the Work Minister, said: “It’s right that we ask claimants to do everything they can to look for work in return for their benefits.
“This pilot is testing how we provide that extra support to those whose motivation or job hunting skills get in the way of finding a job.
“A life on benefits for those who can work is no longer an option - we’re helping those who aspire to the security of a regular wage and the chance to develop a career.”
The “nine to five” scheme was announced by Chancellor George Osborne at the Tory conference one year ago, but it has taken 12 months to set up the pilot.
Other, more draconian parts of the “Work for the Dole” scheme has seen claimants required to cook meals for the elderly, pick up litter and clean up graffiti, or lose their benefits.
Meanwhile, those with deep-rooted problems must attend therapy sessions to deal with poor literacy, or drink and drug addiction.