Free prescriptions and legal aid will be cut off for benefit claimants who are deemed fit to work and do not seek employment as part of a Government crackdown.
Digital tools will also be used to “track” attendance at job fairs and interviews under the toughened sanctions regime, the Treasury has said.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the measures were necessary to prevent “anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers” from receiving benefits.
The changes are part of the Government’s £2.5 billion back-to-work plan, which it hopes will help up to 1,100,000 people look for and stay in employment.
This includes people with long-term health conditions, disabilities and the long-term unemployed.
Opposition critics said the proposals would do nothing to fix the health service or unemployment, while campaigners said the sanctions crackdown was “deeply worrying” and could worsen mental illness.
Asked by journalists how denying access to free prescriptions would help to get people into employment, Downing Street said: “The approach does not take away the support and safety net that is rightly there for people that need it… It’s right that benefits are conditional on claimants meeting their reasonable work search responsibilities and it’s unfair that those in employment should subsidise the benefits of those who can work but choose not to.”
Ministers have said they will also expand support to encourage jobseekers finding and staying in work, including increasing the number of people receiving NHS talking therapy by 384,000 over the next five years.
Plans to add another 100,000 people to the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) scheme, which aims to get those with severe mental illness quickly into paid employment and