By Daniel Hunter

Jobseekers who repeatedly refuse to play by the rules face losing benefits for three years under tough new rules introduced.

The new rules send a clear message that people receiving benefits have a responsibility to actively seek work in exchange for receiving Jobseekers Allowance.

Jobseekers who are ready to work hard and want to get on in life will get all the support they need through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the Work Programme, which offers tailored support to the long-term unemployed, and the Youth Contract, which will create nearly 500,000 opportunities for young people through work experience, apprenticeships and wage incentives for businesses.

But some people refuse to play by the rules and last year alone jobcentre advisors were forced to sanction 495,000 claimants, including 72,000 who refused an offer of employment. Currently, those who fail to live up to their responsibilities can lose JSA for up to 3 months. From today that will increase to up to three years for repeat offenders who refuse to accept jobs or voluntarily leave a job without good reason.

"Choosing a life on benefits when you're able to work is not an option," Minister for Employment Mark Hoban said.

"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."

Currently, jobseekers who break the most important rules, such as refusing to accept a reasonable job offer, can be subject to sanctions for between one week and 6 months. But the wide range means that some claimants do not have a clear understanding of the consequences of refusing to comply with the rules.

The new sanctions regime introduced today will be clearer and more robust, and substantially aligns the current system with the rules which will be in force when Universal Credit is introduced.

There will be 3 levels of sanctions, ranging from four weeks for a minor offence to three years for serious repeat offenders. The new regime is tougher but fairer, and the 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.

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