By politics.co.uk staff
The long-term unemployed face having to do a month of unpaid work in order to keep receiving benefits, under new plans to be confirmed this week.
The scheme, part of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms, would see claimants banned from claiming welfare for three months.
Ministers believe the move could reintroduce the discipline of working life to long-term claimants by forcing them to work for at least 30 hours a week for four weeks.
The work would take place with charities, not-for-profit organisations and private companies.
The plan is imported from the United States, where a much tougher system acts to reduce dependency on the state.
But critics argue that the plans merely worsen the situation for those people who are struggling to find work.
"The Tories are focussing on the workshy but offering nothing to the workless - despite the fact that today there are five unemployed people chasing every job vacancy in the country," shadow work and pensions secretary Douglas Alexander said.
"The Tories have just scrapped Labour's Job Guarantee at the heart of which was a simple bargain - the guarantee of a real job for everyone, with a real requirement to take work that's offered.
"The Tories' decision to scrap this effective policy shows they are neither supportive enough nor demanding enough on welfare."
The Archbishop of Canterbury joined those condemning the move.
"I've got a lot of worries about that," he told the BBC.
"I don't immediately think it's fair. People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are, I think, driven further into a sort of downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair, when the pressure is on in this way.
"It can make people who start feeling vulnerable feel more vulnerable. People are often in this starting place not because they are wicked or stupid or lazy but because circumstances have been against them. To drive that spiral deeper does seem a great problem."
The change comes as the Observer reports that the government has abolished the social exclusion taskforce, which was designed to help those marginalised from society.