Department for Work and Pensions
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No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility
Incapacity benefits and Income Support are to be abolished as part of far-reaching new proposals, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell announced today.
In a radical overhaul of the welfare state, Mr Purnell announced proposals to scrap incapacity benefits by 2013 and abolish Income Support to create a more streamlined system based on just two working-age benefits - the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), for those who have a medical condition which prevents them from working, and Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA) for everyone who is able to work.
Unveiling the new reforms in a green paper published today called No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility, Mr Purnell said:
"Our proposals are based on a simple deal: more support in return for greater responsibility.
"This green paper proposes a simpler benefit system that rewards responsibility, gives people the incentive to do the right thing and ends the injustice of people being written off on benefits for life without any hope of getting the support they need to get back to work.
"We will help people find work, but they will be expected to take a job."
Under the plans, people on incapacity benefits will be moved on to ESA by 2013. This will provide temporary support for all but the most severely disabled people.
Everyone currently on Incapacity Benefit and new claimants will go through a new enhanced medical assessment and be assessed on what they can do, not on what they can't. Doctors will be asked to make clear the point at which the individual should be fit for work and people will be assessed again at that point.
People with severe disabilities will get more cash under ESA. The rest who qualify for the benefit will be placed in a "work" category. They will receive personalised back-to-work support to help them prepare for work and overcome any barriers they face. It will be made clear to this group that ESA is a temporary situation to help them get fit to return to work.
The green paper also sets out proposals to move towards a streamlined benefit system, moving lone parents with children under seven on to JSA. While lone parents with children under seven would not be required to actively seek work, the green paper proposes voluntary measures to give them more support to prepare them for work and includes a 'skills for work' premium on top of existing benefits to act as a weekly financial incentive.
The conditions attached to receiving JSA will also be strengthened with a "work for benefits" scheme for the long-term unemployed. People unemployed for over two years and those abusing the system could be forced to take part in full-time activity such as community work at any point in their claim. People will have to train to get their job skills and drug users would be required to seek treatment or could lose their benefits.
In return for these greater expectations for people on benefits to find work, Mr Purnell also announced measures offering greater support. These include:
* Doubling the funding of Access to Work which provides assistance to disabled workers and their employers, which already helps 24,000 people a year gain employment or stay in their job. There will also be significant increases for the schemes which provide support into employment for the most severely disabled people. People on incapacity benefits who find work through the Pathways to Work programme could get a £40-a-week top-up on their wages to ease the transition into work
* A "full disregard" for child maintenance, so that payments will not be taken into account when calculating how much out-of-work benefits a parent should get. The full disregard, combined with existing reforms to the child maintenance system, and measures to support lone parents with older children into work, will lift up to 200,000 children out of poverty.
* Exploring more ways we can give disabled adults greater control over the combined budget which the government spends on their support.
The publication of the green paper will be followed by three months of public consultation on its proposals. Mr Purnell urged everyone - whether large private firms or individual benefit claimants - to make their views heard and play an active role in shaping the policies.
Notes to editors
2. James Purnell will be taking questions on the welfare reform proposals as part of a webchat on the Number 10 website on Tuesday 22nd July from 4pm onwards. To take part go to the following link http://www.webchat.pm.gov.uk/index.asp?webchatID=75