Civil servants condemned the coalition today for bringing in vicious new plans to strip jobseekers of their benefits for three years if they refused to take the first job offered to them.
Ministers in the under-siege Con-Dem coalition said the new rules sent a "clear message" that people receiving benefits had to toe the line to actively seek work to get the jobseekers allowance.
Previously, unemployed people who refused to accept jobs or voluntarily left a job without good reason had their benefits cut off for just three months.
The government pontificated that jobseekers "who are ready to work hard and want to get on" will get the support through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the work programme.
Last year Jobcentre advisers sanctioned 495,000 claimants including 72,000 who refused an offer of employment.
Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said: "Choosing a life on benefits when you're able to work is not an option.
"These rules send out a clear message to jobseekers.
"We will offer them the support they need to find work, but in return for receiving benefits they have responsibilities too.
"People cannot expect to keep their benefits if they do not hold up their end of the bargain."
There will be three levels of sanctions ranging from four weeks for a minor "offence" to three years for serious repeat "offenders."
A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said: "The new regime is tougher but fairer.
"Rules will be clearly explained to all claimants from day one so that they are in no doubt that if they do not comply they will not get their benefit."
But PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, who represents Jobcentre workers, said: "Instead of punishing people for being out of work the government should take responsibility for the pain and suffering it is causing with its failed austerity policies that we marched against at the weekend.
"With unemployment still high, there are eight people chasing every job vacancy, and many more trapped in part-time, low-paid work.
"No-one chooses a life on benefits, but some very wealthy individuals and organisations like Starbucks do choose not to pay their taxes and they're the ones who should be demonised and pursued."
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