Press release

Mandatory work activity scheme extended

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government has today announced a £5million expansion of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme.

The Government has today announced a £5million expansion of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, requiring more jobseekers to do a month’s full time activity to help them back into work. The expansion will allow for as many as 60-70,000 referrals to the scheme each year.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling has also warned that the system of sanctions is being tightened to make sure people can’t just sign off Jobseekers Allowance and sign on again a few weeks later in order to avoid their placement.

The announcement comes after official figures and analysis of the early impact of the scheme revealed:

  • Nearly half - 46% - of the first jobseekers referred to do a month’s full time activity under the Mandatory Work Activity scheme either signed off Jobseekers’ Allowance or failed to turn up rather than starting the placement. Those failing to turn up face losing their JSA.
  • Of those early referrals 29% signed off JSA over the 21 weeks following the referral instead of starting.
  • Between May 2011 and February 2012, 16,790 people started a Mandatory Work Activity placement. The extra funding will allow for 9,000 extra places a year.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said:

People need to be aware that for those who are fit enough to work it is simply not an option to sit on benefits and do nothing.

We’ve found that a month’s full time activity can be a real deterrent for some people who are either not trying or who are gaming the system. But we’re also fighting a battle to stop claimants slipping back into the benefits system by the back door.

That’s why for the extended roll out of Mandatory Work Activity we will toughen up the sanctions regime and make sure that anyone re-claiming JSA will have to complete a full placement or face a further sanction.

Claimants failing to complete a placement already face losing JSA for three months for a first offence, and six months for a second offence. A tougher sanctions regime will start later in the year.

Mandatory Work Activity helps jobseekers who have demonstrated a need for additional support to gain work related disciplines or a need to re-engage with their search for work. Placements usually last four weeks and jobseekers are referred by Jobcentre Plus advisers. Placements aim to instil disciplines such as attending on time, regularly carrying out specific tasks and working under supervision.

Claimants who participate are expected to complete placements which are of benefit to the community, including helping charities or environmental projects.

Notes to editors

1: What’s the difference between Mandatory Work Activity and voluntary work experience?

Mandatory Work Activity

  • Started May 2011
  • 4 week placements of up to 30 hours per week
  • Gives extra support to a small number of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who would benefit from a short period of activity. It helps them re-engage with the system, refocus their job search and gain work-related disciplines.
  • Delivered by contracted providers who source placements. The Department does not specify what the placement should be, but does expect that every placement will offer people the opportunity to gain fundamental work disciplines, as well as being of benefit to local communities.
  • Providers are responsible for reasonable travel, childcare and additional support costs while the claimant is undertaking a placement.
  • Jobcentre Plus advisers have the flexibility to refer claimants to Mandatory Work Activity, where they feel it is appropriate, as part of a wider range of support options.
  • People cannot be referred if they are already taking part in the Work Programme or other contracted provision.
  • Failure to complete a Mandatory Work Activity placement without good cause will result in the sanction of Jobseeker’s Allowance for three months. This will rise to six months for a second breach. From later in 2012 a three year fixed sanction will apply for a third violation.

Voluntary work experience

  • Work Experience is for 16-24 year old JSA claimants in Great Britain, and participation is voluntary.
  • Work experience is available to 16-17 year olds from day one, 18-24 year olds from 13 weeks.
  • Placements generally last two to eight weeks.
  • Travel, childcare costs and reasonable adjustment costs are paid if required.
  • JSA can be stopped due to gross misconduct.

2: How MWA helps:

Case study 1:

A claimant with a poor work record appeared to be doing little to find work. The Jobcentre Plus adviser thought that Mandatory Work Activity could give them valuable up to date work experience and improve their work ethic. The claimant was subsequently referred to a Mandatory Work Activity placement in a Scope charity shop - a referral that the claimant was reluctant to accept.

Despite their initial reluctance, during their four week placement, their attitude became much more positive, and when the position of assistant manager at the shop became available, they were keen to apply for it. Their application was successful, and they’ve since signed off JSA and started work.

Case study 2:

A claimant was referred to Mandatory Work Activity to gain valuable work experience as they had never previously worked. They were given a placement in a community organisation in Sheffield that provides basic literacy and IT training for young adults. The participant’s duties involved general admin and reception. After two weeks, the placement host was extremely impressed with the participant’s eagerness and dedication to the role; and has since offered them an apprenticeship and job. The participant is very grateful for the opportunity they were given through Mandatory Work Activity; and is excited to start their new job.