What does the Conservatives Help to Work scheme mean?

The Chancellor will announce the Help to Work scheme in his speech today. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

It has been given a title which makes it sound innocuous enough: "Help to Work".

But Help to Work is a major gear change in this government's attempt to curb welfare costs.

As a Treasury source puts it: "The option of just ‘signing on’ as usual is going to disappear completely."

In his speech at the Conservative party conference this morning, the Chancellor will announce that out of work benefits for the long-term unemployed will only be paid to those who do voluntary work or those who opt to attend the job centre every day - currently they are required to attend once per fortnight.

The scheme will be rolled out in the next six months.

George Osborne will announce that around 200,000 of those on Jobseekers Allowance will have to do either:

  • Full-time community work.
  • Attend the job centre and search for work every day.
  • Enrol in a new "Mandatory Intensive Regime" which the government says will "tackle the underlying reasons" for not working.

The penalty for failing to adhere to the above rules will be the loss of four weeks’ worth of benefit for a first breach, and three month's worth for any second offence.

It is the first time the UK has had a national scheme which will require the unemployed to do community work over a long period or face the prospect of losing their benefits.

Similar schemes have been launched in the United States.

According to the Treasury, the community work will include making meals for older people, cleaning up litter and graffiti, or working for local charities.

After what was widely acknowledged as a successful attempt by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to address concerns over the cost of living - in particular his plan for a 20 month freeze in energy prices - the Conservatives are now playing to their strengths on the issue of welfare.

All the polls and focus groups show that the crackdown on welfare is very popular with voters - many even suggest the government's £26,000 cap is set too high - and it chimes with the slogan in capital letters that you simply cannot avoid in the conference hall here: FOR HARDWORKING PEOPLE.

Mr Osborne will tell the conference:

No one will get something for nothing.

Help to Work – and in return work for the dole. Because a fair welfare system is fair to those who need it and fair to those who pay for it too.

The Chancellor will also try to tackle Labour's claim that the economic recovery will benefit only the most privileged in society.

He will repeatedly tell the conference, "it's not over" and will take a swipe at the economic plans of Ed Miliband adding: "If you don’t have a credible economic plan, you simply don’t have a living standards plan."

The Tories have calculated that many taxpayers - including those on very low incomes - will welcome the new stricter rules on claiming Jobseekers Allowance.

It is also significant that the Chancellor is making this announcement - not the Work and Pensions Secretary.

It is significant the Chancellor and not Iain Duncan Smith is making this announcement. Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

It suggests the Treasury has become frustrated with the slow rate of progress at Iain Duncan Smith's department.