Welfare shakeup scraps incapacity benefit

James Purnell unveiling welfare reforms
James Purnell unveiling welfare reforms

Reforms of the welfare system including a replacement of the incapacity benefit and "more responsibility" for claimants have been announced by the government.

The welfare green paper had been played up as a revolutionary series of changes before its official announcement by senior ministers.

And, announcing the green paper to the Commons this afternoon, work and pensions secretary James Purnell claimed it was completing the government's welfare reforms begun ten years ago.

An effectively temporary employment support allowance will replace incapacity benefit from 2013, while full-time work is flagged up as a sanction to be used by all advisers where necessary.

After three and six months claimants will have to intensify their job searches.

Those who are jobless for over a year will be expected to undertake four weeks of community work, while the two per cent the government expects to remain unemployed after two years will be expected to enter into full-time work.

This could include community work like litter-picking.

Mr Purnell said the government sought to provide "more support" in return for "more responsibility".

"We know our support works but we also know conditionality works. We can increase employment and reduce poverty," he said.

"In the past, people were. encouraged to spend a lifetime on benefits. Once they'd signed on, the welfare system often switched off.

"This green paper ends all that. It puts us on the road to our ambition of an 80 per cent employment rate. It will transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people."

Among the other measures outlined are enhanced support for those suffering from drug addictions, help to ensure disabled people are put "in control" and "strengthened parental responsibility".

The latter will see parents on benefits allowed to keep all their maintenance payments for the first time.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling said many of the proposals were "a straight lift from our green paper published in January" but said he would support the policies.

"We look forward to trying to work with the government to turn these proposals into reality as quickly as possible," he said.

Mr Purnell responded by pointing out the Freud report, on which much of today's proposals were based, had been commissioned by the government.

"He can scrabble around trying to get the credit if he wants to. We'll get on doing the right thing and governing the country," Mr Purnell added.


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