Young people claiming unemployment benefit in Barnet will be forced into unpaid work under a new pilot scheme.

All 18 to 24-year-olds who have worked for less than six months will have to complete 13 weeks of voluntary work in order to continue claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance (JSA).

Placements of 30 hours-a-week will be contracted to charities and voluntary organisations with the aim of providing work experience that benefits the local community.

London Mayor Boris Johnson and Employment Minister Chris Grayling yesterday announced the scheme, which will be piloted in 16 London boroughs, including Barnet.

A total of 1,375 18 to 24-year-olds in the borough claimed JSA throughout July, while the scheme is expected to affect 6,000 young people across the capital.

Oliver Gardner has been claiming JSA since he finished his A-levels last year. He believes the scheme is a good idea but worries it will not solve the problem of youth unemployment.

The 18-year-old, of Lyonsdown Road, East Barnet, said: “It’s touching on the problem but not actually solving anything. It helps people’s self esteem but I don’t believe it will help them find a job.

“There are not enough jobs and employers seem to want someone who is ready to get on with it – it is hard to see how this experience will help.

“It shows you’re actively looking for work and willing to work, which is a positive thing, but It is ridiculously hard to get a job. Everywhere wants two years of experience but I’m 18, how can I have it?”

Work placements will include practical support such as CV writing and interview skills to help young people into employment.

Contracts will be arranged with local organisations in the next few weeks and the pilot scheme will begin later this year.

Anti-workfare groups have criticised the idea, claiming young people are being unfairly treated.

Mark Dunk from activist organisation Right to Work said: “Young people are being punished for being unlucky enough to be unemployed when there are not enough jobs.

“The scheme undermines their ability to find employment by filling positions with unpaid roles. This will not help them develop. They’re getting pushed into stacking shelves, painting fences and sitting on the tills of charity shops – all of which they will already possess the skills to do.”

Luke Bevan, 25, of Great North Road, has been claiming JSA on and off since he was 16.

He believes he would have found work more regularly if such a scheme had operated when he was coming out of education.

He said: “It gives people an opportunity to work and develop a work ethic. Too many young people these days are lazy and this gets people off their back sides and into work.”