In my home state of NJ (USA). We have a similar "Welfare to Work" program. But it requires recipients, and every unemployed member of their household over the age of 16 and not a full time student or disabled, to spend at least 30 hours per week looking for work (and documenting it), until they find some. And if they still remain unemployed after 6 months, the state sends them to school to gain some job skills (at the state's expense), and then helps them to find a job.
They do not require you to work for less than minimum wage. The job you end up with is a real
job, with real
wages being paid by your employer...full wages, like they would pay to any other employee. The state would actually prefer if you were being paid more
than minimum wage, since almost everyone on welfare has children to support.
What they do is start cutting your benefits, if you earn over a certain amount. But you do not lose your food stamps, medicaid, childcare benefits, rent, utility, or phone subsidies right away. Those are figured separately, and one can continue to collect under those programs indefinitely, if they still need it.
The goal is to get you off of the reliance on welfare's cash
benefits by the end of 2 years time, because there is a lifetime cap of 5 years on receiving cash benefits, and they don't want you to hit that cap on your first shot (you might need the help again some day).
And there are exemptions for disabled people that can not work, and full time students that do not have the time to take on a job along with school. They would rather teen mothers finish school, enter a job training program, and end up with a good paying job that comes with benefits and a pension plan, than to quit and take on a minimum wage job that keeps them collecting benefits from some part of the system for the rest of their life.
They will even help mothers go after deadbeat dads for child support, if they are not already collecting it. In fact, they require you to cooperate with them, as they go after the father of your kids for child support, as a condition for collecting welfare benefits. If you refuse to supply a father's name, they can cut your benefits until you do.
The goal of our state's program is to turn as many recipients as possible into self sufficient tax payers
that raise kids that also become self sufficient tax payers, because under the old system (that didn't work), people ended up trapped into poverty that extended for generations, with the state picking up the tab for supporting them all, for their entire lives.
And how it works with unemployment benefits, everyone pays into the system through their employer. It's an obligatory insurance plan that pays off should you become unemployed. You collect an amount based on what you earned at your last job and for up to a specified length of time. When your benefits run out, if you have not found a job yet, good luck...you are on your own.
This is not to say that our system is perfect and doesn't have any issues, because believe me, it does. But it is much fairer and far better than the system that you describe in the UK.
My husband maxed out his unemployment benefits when he was laid off from his last job, and was on his own (with no income) for about 4 months longer, before he was finally able to find a job. That was one very rough time in our lives that we are still recovering from.
I asked my Advisor at the Job Center for a careers advise appointment of sorts (Basically to try talk it out and figure out what is the best University courses for the paths I want to go down), and the person I was talking to, ignored everything I said and decided that me working as a Warehouse Operative for Boohoo.com (Yes I WILL name and shame them) - In a town 8 miles from here...would be the best thing for me (Bearing in mind I suggested that my 2 career paths are [Working within the Technology Industry] and [Flying Instructor]...2 completely different paths I know, but both things that I want to do more than anything).
Some years back, when we were collecting food stamps, I had to meet with one of the state's job counselors. I brought along a burned disk containing my artwork, software, and static copies of websites I had built. He took one look at the disk, wouldn't even bother to see what was on it, and replied "Oh, you like using computers? Maybe we can get you into a class to learn how to use MS Word." To which I replied "I already know how to use MS Word. I taught myself by reading the help file. What I want to learn is maybe how to write the next version of MS Word, which you would know if you bothered to look at what is on this disk."
The end result of that meeting was for him to claim I never showed up to keep my appointment with him, for which my whole family was kicked off food stamps a month later.
That dude reminded me so much of the patronizing high school guidance counselor that told me programming was for boys, and then shoved me in a secretarial typing class, because I showed a desire to "play with a keyboard".
I often wonder what I could have accomplished with my life if so many people didn't insist on getting in my way and shitting on my dreams.