Jobcentre Plus staff will process claims for Job Seekers Allowance in prison to curb reoffending rates
Up to 30,000 prisoners leaving jail each year, who then claim Job Seekers Allowance, will be referred immediately to the government's Work Programme, and lose benefit if they refuse to cooperate, the employment minister Chris Grayling announced on Tuesday.
Grayling will argue that the measure is designed to reduce reoffending.
Jobcentre Plus staff will process benefit claims in prison speeding up the process, making immediate referral to the Work Programme.
At present most claimants are not referred to the Work Programme until they have been on benefits for nine to 12 months.
The Ministry of Justice will also set up payments by results system for former prisoners so that employers will be paid according to number of ex-offenders recruited.
Work Programme participants will receive a fee of ?5,600 if they succeed in placing a former offender into work, and help them stay in employment for more than two years.
Employers will be expected to start providing guidance about job opportunities to prisoners while they are in custody in preparation for release.
Figures compiled by the two Departments for England and Wales, showed that one third of all of those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) have criminal records, with 28% on Employment Support Allowance, the benefit for the sick and disabled.
Nearly three quarters of offenders claimed an out of work benefit within two years of leaving prison. A total of 30,000 former prisoners are claiming JSA within three months of leaving prison.
Government research shows offenders claiming JSA on release from prison in 2008 spent 40% more time on benefits over the next three years than the average claimant.
Grayling said:"Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high, and we have to reduce it. In the past we just sent people out onto the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support".