More than 150,000 forced off benefits after refusing to participate in Iain Duncan-Smith's back-to-work schemeWelfare critics will claim this is proof many benefit claimants are dole cheatsSuspicions that figures will be used to distract from report that fewer than one in 20 on scheme have found a permanent job

Brendan Carlin


23:09 GMT, 24 November 2012



23:16 GMT, 24 November 2012

More than 150,000 jobless people have been stripped of benefits after refusing to accept help to get back into work.

One in ten long-term unemployed on the Government’s flagship back-to-work programme opted to go without benefit rather than accept help to get them a job.

And thousands more voluntarily stop claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance as soon as they are referred to the Work Programme.

job centre

Reports last night claimed that results to be published this week would reveal that fewer than one in 20 on the scheme had so far found a permanent job

Welfare critics will hail this as proof that many benefit claimants are ‘dole cheats’ who are secretly working on the side.

But there are also suspicions the figures may have been released to distract from the Work Programme’s wider performance.

Reports last night claimed that detailed results to be published this week would reveal that fewer than one in 20 on the scheme had so far found a permanent job.

The Work Programme, launched in June 2011 with a 5 billion budget, pays private firms and voluntary bodies to retrain the long-term unemployed for the jobs market.

Those who refuse to participate can have their unemployment benefit docked for three months in the first instance and six months for a second refusal.

Iain Duncan Smith's scheme was launched in June 2011

Iain Duncan Smith's scheme was launched in June 2011

Anyone who refuses three times in the same 12 months can lose benefits for up to three years.

Last night, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that up to April this year, 73,260 of these sanctions had been handed out – accounting for roughly one in ten potential participants. By September, the figure was on course to rise beyond 150,000.

The Mail on Sunday understands that sanctions are now running at about 15,000 a month.

Last night, Employment Minister Mark Hoban said: ‘Sadly, some people are clearly very determined to avoid getting a job at all.

'But we are very clear – sitting at home on benefits is not an option for those who are fit and capable of work.

'Through the Work Programme, we are offering the hardest-to-help claimants extensive support in order for them to take control of their lives and return to work.

‘They need to do their bit to find a job but we’ll be there to help them.’

But in an interview yesterday, Mr Hoban admitted that returning people to work was ‘proving difficult’ and called on the firms running the programme to ‘get their act together’.

Earlier this month, Labour welfare spokesman Liam Byrne claimed that referrals to the scheme were plunging as Jobcentre staff lost faith in it.

He said: ‘The Government’s back-to-work schemes are descending into a chaotic mess.’