Chancellor George Osborne said previous governments "of all colours" had "abandoned" the long-term unemployed.
Mr Osborne told Daybreak: "They allowed them to sort of recycle into job centres collecting the dole and people didn't really do anything about them. I think it's wrong.
"We have got to learn from what went wrong in the past. We've got to help these people, but in return expect them to put something back into their community."
The Chancellor set out a tough new policy which will require future Tory governments to run an absolute surplus during periods of growth.
The costs will determine just how enthusiastic lenders are about jumping into the government's new scheme.
'Help to Work' sounds innocuous enough but it is a major gear change in the government's attempt to curb welfare costs.