Labour and Unite have slammed the government’s new mandatory Community Work Placement scheme, reports Rob Edwards

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The government’s latest measures aimed at the long-term unemployed came into effect today, drawing the ire of trade unions and opposition ministers.

The new mandatory Community Work Placements, known as Help to Work Schemes, require that jobseeker’s allowance claimants do six months work placement or risk losing their benefits.

But far from tackling the appalling level of long-term youth unemployment, currently standing at 80 per cent, the programme has been slammed for being akin to ‘slave labour’ and for ill equipping jobseekers in basic literacy, numeracy and computer skills.

“Under David Cameron’s government nearly one in ten people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email,” said shadow minister for employment Stephen Timms MP.

“Yet this government allows jobseekers to spend up to three years claiming benefits before they get literacy and numeracy training,” he added.

Labour by contrast say they would introduce a Basic Skills Test to assess all new claimants for Job Seeker’s Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.

Those who don’t have the skills they need for a job will have to take up training alongside their job search or lose their benefits.

“Labour’s Basic Skills Test and our Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will give the unemployed a better chance of finding a job and will help us to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis,” said Timms.

While falling way short of making full-employment an aim of a future Labour government, the party’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee aims to assure every young person out of work for more than 12 months a paid starter job, or face losing their benefits.

The Compulsory Jobs Guarantee will also apply to adults aged 25 or over who are out of work for two years or more.

Many trade union leaders would characterise Labour’s alternatives as a half-baked solution – many steps short of real job creation, and still wielding the threat of benefits withdrawal.

Criticising the coalition’s proposals, however, Unite the union’s assistant general secretary Steve Turner said it was “outrageous” that the government was “trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing”. “Otherwise they will have their benefits docked,” he added.

“What the long queues of Britain’s unemployed need are proper jobs with decent pay and a strong system of apprenticeships for young people to offer them a sustainable employment future.”