Welfare to Work

One of the major challenges that the Coalition Government has set itself is to get the long-term unemployed back in to work.

I've recently had e-mails from two constituents who, while supportive of the Government's plans, are worried that they might lose their Incapacity Benefit.  Both are clearly deserving cases; they could not work, even if they wanted to.

It is the duty of every Government to guard the welfare of its most vulnerable citizens.  Those in genuine need must be looked after and they should have no cause to worry.

But while there will always be those who need Government support, there are many in the country who could work but choose not to.

This is unfair to everyone else, the hard working people who pay their taxes.  And it will no longer be an option.

The Government has announced plans to reassess all of the 1.6 million claimants of incapacity benefit.

After claimants have had a work capability assessment they will be placed in one of three groups.

Those immediately fit for work will be put on Jobseeker's Allowance and helped to find work in the usual way.

Those deemed unable to work because of sickness or disability will be entitled to the highest rate of Employment Support Allowance, and will not be expected to look for work.

A middle section - those who have been long-term unemployed but judged capable of doing some form of work - will be placed in a work-related activity group.

They will be expected to take steps to prepare themselves for a return to employment.

This week the Government published the results of pilot reassessment schemes in Barnsley and Aberdeen.

They found that 32 per cent of people were fit to return to work immediately, and a further 38 per cent were assessed as being capable of returning to work with the right support.

We have been clear that there are no targets to this scheme.  It is not a money-saving exercise.  It is a plan to give better support to those in need, and help those in long-term unemployment to find a way back in to work.

The principle is simple and fair.  If you genuinely cannot work or find a job, you should be supported.  But if you can work and there are suitable jobs available, you should.

Christopher N Howarth