15 May 2008
Incapacity benefit claimants are to be the target of more ‘radical reforms’.

James PurnellGordon Brown announced yesterday that, before employment and support allowance has even been introduced, the government is to begin consulting on yet another welfare reform bill to be published in the autumn.

In his statement on the forthcoming legislative programme, Gordon Brown told MPs

“And we will consult on further radical reforms to ensure that no-one with the ability to work is trapped on benefits for life. Those that can work should work. So new and existing incapacity benefit claimants will be required to go through a medical assessment and will be given a personalised programme to help them back into work.”

It is entirely unclear to what degree Mr Brown was referring to the new work capability medical assessment or whether the ‘personalised programme’ will apply just to ESA claimants, who will be subject to the Pathways to Work regime, or to incapacity benefit claimants as well.

In a further press statement, James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that:

‘The Government will publish a Green Paper setting out a range of options to reduce welfare dependency and support more people into work, provide greater support and control for disabled people and strengthen parental responsibility. This paper will be open for a full public consultation, the results of which will feed into a Bill this autumn.’

The main elements of the Green Paper will be:

‘Measures to better enable people to take advantage of the considerable help on offer to them and where appropriate, to undertake training that is considered essential to finding employment.’

‘A range of measures which strengthen the benefit contract between the individual and society – the individual’s right to support in exchange for clear personal responsibility for improving their own circumstances.’

‘Measures to modernise and simplify the benefit system, ensuring that support provides help at the time and in the manner most needed and helps us to achieve our goal of taking 1 million people off incapacity benefit by 2015.’

As well as possible further changes to incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance regulations, the Green Paper may well include proposals to change the way disability living allowance is administered, with the goal of making it part of a combined budget that disabled people receive in order to pay for social services and other care.

Whilst the details of the government’s proposals are far from clear, what is absolutely certain is that any ‘consultation’ will result in many more months of ministerial and press attacks on the sick and disabled.

Read Purnell’s press release here.


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