David Cameron has unveiled plans to force all unemployed 18 to 21 year olds who claim benefits to carry out community work, as part of the Conservative Party's drive to tackle youth unemployment.
Called the 'Community Work Programme', the policy, which was announced on Tuesday, follows the Conservatives' election pledge to replace Jobseeker's Allowance for the age group with a Youth Allowance - a policy also announced by Ed Miliband in June 2014.
If the Conservatives win the next election in May, the programme would require young people who have been without work or education for the previous six months - colloquially known as 'NEETs' - to work on community projects for 30 hours a week, alongside 10 weekly hours of job search activity.
Estimated to cost £20m, the scheme will be funded by the "initial savings generated by the roll out of Universal Credit," Conservative Party sources claim.
The Prime Minister expressed hope the reforms will "abolish youth unemployment", by ending the "well-worn path from the school gate, down to the Job Centre, and onto a life on benefits."
Judging from some of the responses on Twitter, the proposals are unlikely to endear the Tories to youth voters in the coming election:
David Cameron: Unemployed young 'should do community work' targeting the youth again😡last time it was tuition fees⚠️ http://t.co/rZj5qol4YT— OLU (@Maestro_Nigeria) February 17, 2015
So tories were like - youth unemployments high? Let's make them all do community work for free! -_- young people use your votes plz ><— Elaine (@Mirakell_) February 17, 2015
“What these young people need is work experience and the order and discipline of turning up for work each day," Cameron went on to say. "So a Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim, as well as searching for work.
“From day one they must realise that welfare is not a one-way street. Yes, we will help them, but there is no more something for nothing. They must give back to their community too.”
Youth Employment UK (YEUK), a pressure representing unemployed young people, expressed uncertainty when telling the Huffington Post UK: "We remain unsure as to whether mandatory voluntary work will establish a boost in success in finding employment as a direct result of a community programme.
"Young people will still require the support and guidance in not only just applying for every job vacancy available, but also the skills that will make them work ready and are equipped with relevant transferable skills. Supporting our schools to offer work experience and good quality careers information should not be overlooked.
"For any policy to really work a consultation with young people must take place. We cannot assume we know what young people want or need."
Twitter uses have, however, come up with precise criticism of the programme:
I'm sure the "community" that jobless youth are supposed to work for is the "business community" like Poundland etc— Colin A (@ColinOnTweets) February 17, 2015
Rachel Reeeves MP, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, commented ahead of Cameron's speech: "With youth unemployment rising, not falling, the government should introduce Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people off benefits and into paid work."
There are currently roughly 50,000 new benefit claims per year from 18 to 21 year olds, a figure which makes up 10% of all claims.
Although the most recent unemployment figures, published late last month, were hailed by the Tories as a victory in the battle against unemployment, the statistics revealed a very different story for Britain's youths.
Despite the apparent success in decreasing joblessness, the number of unemployed 16 to 24 year olds shot up by 30,000 in September to November 2014, compared to the number of out of work youths in the June to August period of the same year, according to the Office for National Statistics.