Sunday

The Tories get radical on welfare reform. Good.

120,000 more people claim incapacity benefit than 10 years ago and 52 per cent more under-24s are claiming than in 1997. Half a million people under 35 are now claiming the benefit. More than half of the people now claiming incapacity benefit have been receiving it for more than five years.

This is from Chris Grayling’s article in the Sunday Telegraph. He offers a bold reform. It is more radical that what is proposed by the government. But if the government complains, it will be easy for the Tories to say that the government itself has embarked on the same road. It looks daring and right – politically astute and good policy. Here are his proposals:

The majority of people signed on to this benefit by filling in a form and sending in a note from their doctor. Most claimants are then simply left to their own devices. We will change that. We will contact every single one of those 2.6 million people as quickly as possible. We will carry out face-to-face interviews with all of them, to assess what they can do, and how we can help them back into work. It’s a big task, and it won’t be done overnight, but it has to be done, and as rapidly as possible.
Our initial aim will be to offer most people a place on a structured programme of support to find them a job. We know that as many as a million people claiming incapacity benefit say that they hope to get back into the workplace. We will offer them the help they need to achieve that.
Those who don’t want to accept that offer will be expected to undergo a full medical check to confirm what they can and can’t do now, and what they might, with the right support, be able to do in the future. It will be done by someone independent, so the relationship with a family doctor doesn’t affect the outcome.
Those found to be perfectly capable of working will lose their entitlement to incapacity benefit immediately. Many have been abusing the system. They will be transferred into the normal process for Jobseekers and will be expected to start looking for work straight away. Based on the experience of other countries, we expect at least 200,000 people to be affected.
Those who have the potential to get back into work – even if it’s a different kind of job – but still have mental or physical hurdles to overcome will be required to join a return-to-work programme. Only those whose incapacity makes it impossible or unrealistic for them to work will be able to continue to claim the benefit without conditions.
For Britain such an approach marks a revolution in our welfare state. It marks an end to a situation where the receipt of incapacity benefit is an unconditional entitlement. In the future it will carry with it the responsibility to do everything that you can to get back into work and help lift yourself out of the poverty trap that incapacity benefit represents for so many people. It’s already happening in places like New York. It’s something we should aspire to in Britain.
A country where a young man and his family regard it as an achievement to get onto the “sick” is one that desperately needs reform. A country that brings in millions of workers but can’t help people out of the trap that incapacity benefit has become, is one that desperately needs change.

  1. Welfare reform reduced poverty in America. When will the Tories endorse it?
  2. Welfare reform Green Paper comes out today
  3. Reform of incapacity benefit – again
  4. If we had had welfare reform like America, we could have had this:
  5. That old chestnut that the Tories shunted people onto Invalidity Benefit in the 1980s in order to keep down the unemployment figures
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