City MP Jess Phillips has condemned government plans to make unemployed young people take part in a “boot camp” to get them ready for work - and to cut their benefits after six months on the dole.
Ms Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “A hand up is absolutely fine but a punishment for people who have no choices is the stuff of some sort of Russian Gulag.”
The Government’s new plan involves ordering young people aged 18 to 21 to join a scheme lasting three weeks, where they will be taught about applying for a job and interview techniques.
And if they are still unemployed after six months, they will be told their benefits will be axed unless they get a job, apprenticeship, or place on a training scheme - or agree to do unpaid work experience.
The Government announced the plans in a statement promising to create a “no excuses” culture to youth employment with a “boot camp” which will “put young jobseekers through their paces”.
Ms Phillips compared the policy to the forced labour camps in Communist Russia, known as Gulags.
And she said: “I would support anything that offers help to young people to get into jobs, because I believe young people want that support and need it.
“But the idea of a ‘no excuses’ culture shows the Government doesn’t understand the reality of people’s lives.
“If you are a carer, is that an excuse? If you are a young person who has a baby, is that an excuse?”
She said she feared the young people most affected would be those who had the most difficult childhoods.
She added: “Are we going to make people who live off their parents go on this camp? So it’s fine to be unemployed as long as your mum and dad is paying for it.
“I want to see as many trustafarians going through this boot camp as kids whose parents for one reason or another had to rely on benefits.”
And highlighting plans to make young people do work experience, she said: “It seems like cheap Labour to me.”
Announcing the scheme, Government Minister Matt Hancock, the Paymaster General, said: “We are determined to fulfil our commitments to end the welfare culture that is embedded in some of Britain’s most vulnerable communities.
“By working across government to make sure that every young person is in work or training, by opening up three million more apprenticeships, expanding traineeships, and making sure that a life on benefits is simply not an option, we want to end rolling welfare dependency for good, so welfare dependency is no longer passed down the generations.
“We are absolutely committed to ending long-term youth unemployment and building a country for workers, where nobody is defined by birth and everyone can achieve their potential.”