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Welfare Reform Act 2009

Section 1: Schemes for assisting persons to obtain employment: “work for your benefit” schemes etc.

48.This section inserts two new sections, section 17A (schemes for assisting persons to obtain employment: ‘work for your benefit’ schemes etc.) and section 17B (section 17A: supplemental) into the Jobseekers Act 1995 (c. 18).

49.Section 17A(1), which is inserted by subsection (2), enables the Secretary of State to make provision in regulations for or in connection with imposing a requirement on jobseeker’s allowance claimants to participate in schemes that are designed to assist them to obtain employment.

50.In particular, these regulations may impose a requirement on claimants to undertake work or work-related activity as part of a ‘work for your benefit’ scheme.

51.The intention is to pilot ‘work for your benefit’ schemes in limited geographical areas from 2010 in order to assess their effectiveness. This would be achieved by making regulations using the powers in section 29 (pilot schemes) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 (as amended - see section 28). Subsequent implementation would be subject to the outcome of the pilots and affordability.

52.Section 17A(1) provides for the regulations to set out the circumstances in which jobseeker’s allowance claimants are required to participate in schemes under this section. The Government intends to use these powers to require a proportion of long-term unemployed claimants who reach the end of a Flexible New Deal programme without finding work to take part in a ‘work for your benefit’ pilot scheme. The Government envisages that Jobcentre Plus personal advisers will be able to require other jobseeker’s allowance claimants to take part in a pilot scheme if the adviser considers that participation would benefit the individual concerned.

53.As well as undertaking full-time work or work-related activity it is also envisaged that participants in ‘work for your benefit’ pilot schemes will be provided with relevant employment support.

54.Section 17A(2) makes it clear that the regulations may require claimants to undertake work or a work-related activity during a prescribed period with a view to improving their chances of finding employment. The Government envisages that claimants may participate in ‘work for your benefit’ pilot schemes for up to six months.

55.Section 17A(3) defines ‘work-related activity’ as activity which would make it more likely that the participant will obtain or remain in work or be able to do so.

56.Section 17A(4) precludes regulations made under subsection (1) from applying to jobseeker’s allowance claimants who are not required to satisfy the jobseeking conditions. These are the conditions set out in section 1A(5)(a) to (c) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 (see section 4(3)> – namely that a person is available for work, has a current jobseeker’s agreement, and is actively seeking employment). The Government envisages the precluded groups will include lone parents with younger children who are moved to jobseeker’s allowance after the abolition of income support (see section 9).

57.Section 17A(5) provides examples of provisions that may be included in regulations made under section 17A(1).

58.Section 17A(5)(d) enables regulations to provide that benefit payments may be withheld or reduced where a claimant has failed to comply with the regulations and he or she does not show good cause for the failure within the period specified in regulations. If good cause is shown, benefit will continue to be paid. The Government intends that good cause for not participating in a ‘work for your benefit’ scheme will be consistent with the good cause provisions currently contained in regulations relating to jobseeker’s allowance. An example of good cause would be dealing with a domestic emergency.

59.Subsection (6) provides that a jobseeker’s allowance is not payable for a period specified in regulations where a claimant has failed to comply with regulations made under section 17A. This subsection also provides that the period specified in the regulations in respect of which a jobseeker’s allowance is not payable must be at least one week and not more than 26 weeks.

60.Section 17A(7) provides that the appropriate consequence if a member of a joint-claim couple fails to comply with regulations is that he or she be treated as subject to sanctions for the purpose of section 20A of the Jobseekers Act 1995. The period for which the full allowance is not payable must be at least one week and not more than 26 weeks.

61.Subsections (8) and (9) of section 17A make provision for claimants to receive an income-based jobseeker’s allowance even though provision made by the regulations may prevent it. This is to enable claimants who are subject to a sanction to receive hardship payments. Regulations may prescribe the rate and period of such payments and the circumstances in which they are payable. Subsection (8) does not apply in the case of a joint-claim jobseeker’s allowance. Provision for such payments is contained in section 20B(4) of the Jobseekers Act 1995.

62.New section 17B, which is also inserted in the Jobseekers Act 1995 by subsection (2), contains provisions that are supplemental to section 17A. These provisions relate to the practical operation of schemes prescribed under section 17A and provide support for any contractual arrangements the Secretary of State may make regarding their delivery.

63.Subsection (1) enables the Secretary of State to associate himself, financially or otherwise, with any scheme falling within section 17A(1). For example, ‘work for your benefit’ pilot schemes may involve contracting with non-Government organisations and providing funding for relevant work-related activity and employment support. The Secretary of State may also wish to make payments to persons participating in the schemes to cover certain expenses, such as the cost of public transport to the host organisation.

64.Subsections (2) to (5) allow the Scottish and the Welsh Ministers to continue to make payments to those delivering schemes (including the Secretary of State) under section 17A. Payments made in this way must be for facilities considered capable of supporting the training in Scotland or Wales of persons for employment. This means that Scottish and Welsh Ministers retain current powers in relation to schemes made under section 60 (special schemes for claimants for jobseeker’s allowance) of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 (c. 30). Provision is made for the repeal of section 60 in section 55 and Part 3 of Schedule 7.

65.Subsection (6) enables the Secretary of State, where necessary, to use existing powers in section 26 (status of trainees etc.) of the Employment Act 1988 to make an order dealing with the employment status of claimants participating in schemes under section 17A and detailing how any income gained while on a scheme should be treated for the purpose of other relevant legislation (for example, legislation relating to tax or National Insurance contributions). This follows the same approach as in section 60(8) of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999.

66.Subsections (3) to (5) of section 1 make other amendments which are consequential on new section 17A.

67.Subsection (3) inserts a new subsection (4A) in section 36 (regulationsand orders) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 to make it clear that regulations made under new section 17A may make different provision for different areas and that they may make provision only in relation to an area or areas specified in the regulations.

68.Subsection (4) amends Schedule 3 to the Social Security Act 1998 (c. 14) to provide that a decision relating to non-payment of benefit under section 17A may be appealed.

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