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Labour Shadow Minister Backs Abuse of Incapacity Claimants and ‘Welfare Reform’.

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse:

Douglas Alexander, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, today moved to clarify Labour‘s stance on welfare by saying he will back phased reform of housing benefit and stressing the party’s support for stricter incapacity benefit tests.

Note: Private companies have widely abused these tests. Big numbers of seriously ill people, charities, and pressure groups have shown, are found ‘fit for work’ . Their ‘success’ rate  has earned their surgeries the nickname of  “Lourdes’.

He also said he was broadly supportive of plans for a universal credit, the centrepiece of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare white paper, due to be unveiled next week, but set a series of tests for his support. The universal credit will unify most benefits and tax credits into a single payment.

In his first interview since taking on what is likely to be a central political battleground, Alexander told the Guardian his preference was a Danish model of the state guaranteeing work, and then obliging people to take the job or lose benefit. “This is a form of conditional welfare. Real guarantees of work, but real sanctions if the offer is not taken up.”

Note: There is and never will be guarantees for work for all. Sanctions for those for refuse job offers, however ,exist and have done so for many many years.

Duncan Smith, he said, had by contrast been obliged by the Treasury to follow an American punitive model of simply cutting benefit, regardless of whether work was available. In return for his £2bn universal credit scheme, Duncan Smith had agreed to £18bn of welfare cuts, many of which will reduce disincentives to work. Alexander and Duncan Smith are due to clash on welfare in a Commons debate on Tuesday.

Labour has been criticised, including by its former party general secretary Peter Watt, for appearing to be siding with the feckless poor against the hard-working squeezed middle, so appearing less credible on how to tackle the deficit.

But Alexander listed a series of welfare reforms he was willing to accept, including changing access to disability living allowance, driving out fraud, temporary changes to the uprating of some benefits, and testing the availability for work of incapacity benefit claimants .

Note: so instead of defending the poor he attacks them.

On the planned reductions in housing benefit for those in the private rented sector – the issue that has led to allegations that as many as 80,000 poor families will be driven from their homes – he said Labour supported the principle.


Note: the principle of kicking people out of their homes.

But critically, Alexander said, the government was making an error by making the changes in one year and by cutting the level of benefit down from the 50th to the 30th percentile of rents in the local area, a move he said would mean 700,000 of the poorest people losing an average £9 a week. “The government are trying to pretend these rushed and arbitrary changes will affect a small number of people – it will affect hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.

He added: “If the government produced a proposal for a staged and lower percentile reduction over years that is something we could consider.”

Note: so he prefers removing people and slashing their benefits slowly.

That’s all right then.

But he said he was implacably opposed to plans from April 2013 to cut 10% of housing benefit from anyone claiming unemployment benefit for a year. “This is just punitive,” he said.

Note: one slender reasonable position.

Alexander acknowledged that Labour in office had made mistakes on welfare. The Labour government should have done more to tackle low pay job insecurity, he said, adding Labour came relatively late to tackling the large numbers placed on incapacity benefit for years by the Thatcher government. Labour had initially focused instead on reducing unemployment.

He also conceded the housing benefit bill had been forced to take too much of the strain “for generation-long failures in the housing market, principally the lack of affordable homes to rent and buy”.

Challenged that Labour had been slow in office to reform welfare, he said: “We made significant reforms, but welfare reform is easier to assert than achieve. Many of the government’s current reforms build on what we set in train.”

Alexander predicted: “Welfare is going to be a central battleground not just of political argument, but public discussions in the years ahead. Our responsibility is to protect people and help them into work. My grave fear is that this government, like the Thatcher government, will show themselves very good at welfare cuts, and very bad at getting people into work.”

Note: waffle, waffle and more waffle.

George Osborne, and his Liberal Democrat allies, had burnt a lot of credibility in trying to prove the overall spending package was fair, when independent thinktanks had demolished those claims.

He said the coming battle would not simply be about cuts or fairness, but about the pressure being applied on the living standards of hard-working families. He also asserted that many other Tory reforms in the spending review, including cuts to childcare, the freezing of tax credit, and the increase in commuter fares, created disincentives to work.

He added that the localisation of council tax benefit proposed by Osborne risked complicating the simplicity of the universal credit system.

The prospect is for a cross-party consensus on ending the welfare state, replacing it with a state that fits people into work, and that provides a minimum safety-net for the really hard cases.

From Here


Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2010 at 10:43 am

22 Responses

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  1. Benefit claimants will get ‘make work pay’ guarantee to make jobs more lucrative than handouts

    Benefit claimants will be given a ‘make work pay’ guarantee in the most radical shake-up of Britain’s welfare system for decades.

    Iain Duncan Smith is expected to pledge that around 35p in every £1 people earn as they come off benefits stays in their pockets.

    Currently, some families on benefits could lose more than £1 income for every £1 they would earn in employment, through withdrawn state subsidies and tax.

    This acts as a perverse disincentive to jobless people who might find work, or part-time workers offered extra hours, and sends a ‘crazy’ signal about how society values hard work, ministers say.

    As it stands, the welfare system – which is so complex that officials have not even been able to tell Mr Duncan Smith exactly how many different benefits exist – pays millions to stay out of work.

    The Work and Pensions Secretary has warned that welfare claimants are no better off if they come off the dole to take on jobs paying up to £15,000 a year.

    Effective marginal tax rates – the amount withdrawn in tax and means-tested benefits as claimants’ earnings increase – can reach 100 per cent.

    In a Government White Paper due to be unveiled next week, he is expected to set out plans to scrap benefits claimed by millions and replace them with a simple ‘universal credit’.

    Housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit and dozens of other payments will be swept away in a major programme intended to break the cycle of welfare dependency. The streamlined system will allow benefits to be withdrawn at a more consistent rate, smoothing out complexities and anomalies. Most people will lose benefits more gradually than at present, making working more rewarding.

    Those taking jobs would lose a maximum of around 65 per cent of their benefits, ensuring they keep 35 per cent of their earnings from work.

    Mr Duncan Smith is considering withdrawing benefit if workers refuse to take on extra hours if they are able to do so.

    While they will save money in the medium term as people are encouraged to move off benefits and into employment, the proposals will require initial investment. Mr Duncan Smith, who has had to implement deep cuts to housing benefit and other handouts, has secured an extra £2billion from Chancellor George Osborne to pay for the ‘universal credit’ reform.

    Currently, 1.895million families are hit by marginal tax rates of 60p or more on every additional pound they earn. Under last month’s emergency Budget that figure will rise to 1.935million after 2011-12.

    A 1 per cent rise in National Insurance means that the number of households hit by an even higher 90 per cent rate will rise from 70,000 this year to 110,000 next year, and to 130,000 the year after.

    Mr Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice think-tank says hundreds of thousands of people calculate that is it simply not worth taking a job as a result of high marginal tax rates.

    A couple with no children where the head of the family works 16 hours a week at minimum wage, for example, is £9.27 a week worse off on benefits than in work. They would lose Jobseeker’s Allowance worth £100.95 a week, but take home only £91.68 a week in earnings. High marginal tax rates mean there are even certain points on the income scale where people getting a small pay rise end up taking home less money than before because benefits are withdrawn.

    Mr Duncan Smith’s reforms are so fundamental that they are not expected to be fully in place until the next Parliament.

    A Whitehall source said: ‘It’s critical to both the future of the country and the success of our welfare reforms that we make work pay.’


    Daily Heil

    November 6, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    • the head of the family works 16 hours a week at minimum wage, for example, is £9.27 a week worse off on benefits than in work. They would lose Jobseeker’s Allowance worth £100.95 a week, but take home only £91.68 a week in earnings.

      a) A couple without children doesn’t normally make the “family” category

      b) The example to me seems like the persons are better off ON benefits than in work.

      Work Programme

      November 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  2. “a state that fits people into work” 🙂


    Fritz Todt

    November 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    • “a state that fits people into work” or the gas chamber if they won’t fit 🙂

      Henrich Himmler

      November 6, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    • Indeed, the only thing that is holding back the building of modern-day gas chambers for “undesirables” is the past atrocities committed by the Nazis.

      “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana


      November 6, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  3. Looks like a case of you can walk, talk, use your hands. Therefore you are fit for work. Has anbody noticed that most New Claim interviews at jobcentres are on the 1st floor. So if you can get up the stairs you are fit for work. This applies to some atos medical centres too

    Mr Middlesex

    November 6, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    • lol mine is a little narrow, winding staircase that just goes on and on… after the first couple of turns your head would be spinning lol

      peggy sue

      November 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    • http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/94565

      “The tendency not to want to believe in mental illness festers across the Western world, and particularly in Britain – the nation that gave us Shakespeare, cold showers and the stiff upper lip.

      From the friends and families of sufferers to the upper echelons of government, the suspicion that mental health difficulties are forms of personal weakness informs policy and influences behaviour.

      We need to look this institutional prejudice in the face and call it what it is – outdated, destructive and desperately unhelpful.

      Over the past few months, I have interviewed a great many people suffering from mental health difficulties, and none of them are feeling optimistic about the Tories’ coming welfare reform proposals and the promised cuts to incapacity and out-of-work benefits. ”

      More through link.

      Andrew Coates

      November 6, 2010 at 4:38 pm

  4. Iain Duncan Smith: My welfare reforms are Beveridge for today, with a hint of Tebbit
    A universal benefit will be at the centre of a ‘contract’ to help people out of joblessness, Iain Duncan Smith tells Andrew Porter and Mary Riddell

    Epic paintings of Frenchmen being slaughtered on 18th century battlefields adorn Iain Duncan Smith’s office wall.

    No doubt for him a welcome change from this week’s Anglo-French love-in. And certainly a welcome change from the vapid modern art so beloved by the Work and Pensions Secretary’s Labour predecessors.

    The paintings – including a portrait of Lord Viscount Duncan, one of his forefathers in full battledress – provide daily inspiration for the man tasked with tackling Britain’s welfare problem.

    But wars in some ways are simple; spot the enemy, engage them and, using cunning and firepower, defeat them.

    Spotting the ‘enemy’ when dealing with a welfare system that has spawned more than 30 different benefits is difficult, and it has taxed Mr Duncan Smith for the first six months of his job.

    But he tells the Daily Telegraph that he has got there. Now for the answer to the problem.

    This week he will unveil far-reaching measures that he hopes will have historic significance. Measures, he tells the Daily Telegraph, that will be looked back in years to come as something that “started a chain of other things that changed British society.”

    “I hope that people see this as the break point, and a cultural change. It’s the trip wire to cultural change. So when people look back they don’t just say that it was a good thing to do, they look back in the same way as to the welfare state and say there was a cultural shift.”

    That is a bold claim, but when he is basically ripping up the benefits system and starting again there is little doubt that the success would have lasting effect.

    “I think it’s the biggest change since Beveridge introduced the welfare system,” he says.

    In 1942 William Beveridge published his report into how the government should find ways of fighting the five “Giant Evils” of “want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness”.

    Mr Duncan Smith will not say that it is the last of these that most concerns him most – but that is where voters see the need for most pressing action today.

    Three years after Beveridge’s report Clement Attlee announced that the study would form the basis of the new welfare state that would provide “social security.” But it was Beveridge’s 1948 report that Mr Duncan Smith believes is now more relevant because it focused on the “warning signals” when dealing with welfare and about needing people to do the right thing.

    “This is what he is trying to achieve from a 21st century perspective. When he brought in the welfare system, work was a much simpler system. You were pretty much in work full-time or you were out of work.

    “It was pretty much men who were in work and it was dominated by a huge amount of manual hard graft labour. Society has changed dramatically since then.”

    Voters are entitled to feel sceptical about welfare reform shake-ups. Another set of ministers talking tough about benefit changes, clampdowns, sticks and carrots. Even Labour talked the talk.

    But the Coalition says this time it is different. Why? Because in short Mr Duncan Smith will effectively scrap the 30 plus benefits and come up with one – the universal credit.

    There will be a marked shift away from the traditional generous British welfare system to more punitive, American-style, one that ultimately comes down hard on those who refuse to work.

    “The message will go across; play ball or it’s going to be difficult,” he says.

    Pressed on the penalty regime and the gradual taking away of benefits from the most recalcitrant, Mr Duncan Smith first offers lengthy and detailed explanations about why almost all people will get back into work if they can.

    But some, he acknowledges will refuse. What will happen to these people and how will the system come after them?

    “I think most of the public think that progressively you send them signals. They have a bit withdrawn, then a bit more, then eventually to have to say you will eventually lose all your benefit.

    “The signal will get round very quickly that you are serious about this. We may have to do it initially to some of the more recalcitrant people. But I have a view about human nature, most people once you start to show them the right way out I think most people move.

    “Those who won’t play get lost in the system at present and they infect everyone else.”

    The universal benefit will form the centrepiece of the Coalition’s work on welfare and it is possible only after months of fearsome, eyeball-to-eyeball negotiations with George Osborne – although Mr Duncan Smith cheekily refers to it as “a polite conversation.” He explains the changes are “long overdue”.

    “We need it because the present system acts as a barrier to work, and worse than that a major disincentive to people who have been out of work for any length of time to go back to work. It is very difficult for lone parents and others to negotiate thanks to its complexity, and more importantly it acts as a disincentive to people to use work as a way of taking control of their lives and therefore they will not do that.”

    He talks of the new system being “a contract” with people.

    “The contract for us as a government is if we simplify the system so that work pays and alongside we’ve got all the assistance we can for people who have been out of work for a long time, we put the new incapacity benefit system in place.

    “So the two systems – back to work and reformed benefits system – I think you can then legitimately our bit of contract is to make work pay, your bit of the contract is take the work when it is available and not just take it but to work hard, continue to work hard and try and improve your lot.”

    Mr Duncan Smith was struck by a recent documentary by Telegraph columnist Jeff Randall, which examined the example of Merthyr and how many people in the South Wales former mining town were happy to sit taking benefits and refuse to “get on a bus” and consider work in nearby Cardiff.

    “What I was struck by in Merthyr was what has happened culturally. People grew up to believe their job was just round the corner, but life is different now. Under, Beveridge that was basically still right but is not now. People commute long distances because they cannot live close to their work. We’ve got to get used to the idea that you have to travel to work.

    “What we have got to help people with is if they have to go somewhere else to find work, how can we help take their family with them.

    “In 40 years we have not thought this through. We have been stuck in this terrible time-warp. People’s expectations are not going to be met. The rest of society has moved on, but this hasn’t changed and that is why we are bringing the universal credit. We need to get to this group and bring them into mainstream society.”

    The ‘on yer bike’ message in the current era doesn’t seem to have the same toxicity as it did for many years after Norman Tebbit (Mr Duncan Smith’s predecessor as MP for Chingford) first talked about his father and his search for work. For a start few are listening to Labour’s howls from the sidelines. Instead the focus is on whether a Coalition can have the drive and determination to properly change the system in a way that no single party has ever managed.

    The former Tory leader is adamant: “I think I can only achieve this is a Coalition. This gives me the opportunity to do this as we have two parties coalescing around this idea. I don’t have to play tit for tat in Commons. I can start from strong position and say to Labour party to come on board and shape this and get it right.”

    He adds: “I’m driven by the idea that we have to change this.

    “I’m here for this. That’s it.”


    Name: George Iain Duncan Smith

    Age: 56

    Family: Married to Betsy for 28 years; two sons and two daughters.

    Career: Captain in the Scots Guards, 1975-81; Conservative MP for Chingford from 1992; Conservative leader 2001-03; Founder of the Centre for Social Justice; Work and Pensions Secretary 2010.

    Interests: Military and political history, walking his dogs, Tottenham Hotspur.


    The Torygraph

    November 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm

  5. The party game is over. Stand and fight

    John Pilger

    Published 04 November 2010

    The lesson of the French anti-government protests is that “normal” politics exists only to promote corporate interests. Britain must prepare for a rebirth of the only thing that works — direct action.

    “Rise like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number!
    Shake your chains to earth, like dew
    Which in sleep had fall’n on you:
    Ye are many – they are few.”

    These days, the stirring lines of Percy Shelley’s “Mask of Anarchy” may seem unattainable. I don’t think so. Shelley was both a Romantic and political truth-teller. His words resonate now because only one political course is left to those who are disenfranchised and whose ruin is announced on a government spreadsheet.

    Born of the “never again” spirit of 1945, social democracy has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship. This reached its apogee when £1trn of public money was handed unconditionally to corrupt banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had previously described “financiers” as the nation’s “great example” and his personal “inspiration”.

    This is not to say parliamentary politics is meaningless. It has one meaning now: the replacement of democracy with a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born.

    No rationale

    The old myths of British rectitude, imperial in origin, provided false comfort while the Blair gang built the foundation of the present “coalition”. This is led by a former PR man for an asset stripper and by a bagman who will inherit his knighthood and the tax-shielded fortune of his father, the 17th Baronet of Ballintaylor. David Cameron and George Osborne are essentially fossilised spivs who, in colonial times, would have been sent by their daddies to claim foreign terrain and plunder.

    Today, they are claiming 21st-century Britain and imposing their vicious, antique ideology, albeit served as economic snake oil. Their designs have nothing to do with a “deficit crisis”. A deficit of 10 per cent is not remotely a crisis. When Britain was officially bankrupt at the end of the Second World War, the government built its greatest public institutions, such as the National Health Service and the arts edifices of London’s South Bank.

    There is no economic rationale for the assault described cravenly by the BBC as a “public spending review”. The debt is exclusively the responsibility of those who incurred it, the super-rich and the gamblers. However, that’s beside the point. What is happening in Britain is the seizure of an opportunity to destroy the tenuous humanity of the modern state. It is a coup, a “shock doctrine” as applied to Pinochet’s Chile and Yeltsin’s Russia.

    In Britain, there is no need for tanks in the streets. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms it is said to hold dear, bourgeois Britain has allowed parliament to create a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. Powers of arrest and detention have never been greater. The police have the impunity to kill; and asylum-seekers can be “restrained” to death on commercial flights.

    Athol Fugard is right. With Harold Pinter gone, no acclaimed writer or artist dare depart from their well-remunerated vanity. With so much in need of saying, they have nothing to say. Liberalism, the vainest ideology, has hauled up its ladder. The chief opportunist, Nick Clegg, gave no electoral hint of his odious faction’s compliance with the dismantling of much of British postwar society. The theft of £83bn in jobs and services matches almost exactly the amount of tax legally avoided by piratical corporations. Without fanfare, the super-rich have been assured they can dodge up to £40bn in tax payments in the secrecy of Swiss banks. The day this was sewn up, Osborne attacked those who “cheat” the welfare system. He omitted the real amount lost, a minuscule £0.5bn, and that £10.5bn in benefit payments was not claimed at all. Labour is his silent partner.

    The propaganda arm in the press and broadcasting dutifully presents this as unfortunate but necessary. Mark how the firefighters’ action is “covered”. On Channel 4 News, following an item that portrayed modest, courageous people as basically reckless, Jon Snow demanded that the leaders of the London Fire Authority and the Fire Brigades Union go straight from the studio and “mediate” now, this minute. “I’ll get the taxis!” he declared. Forget the thousands of jobs that are to be eliminated from the fire service and the public danger beyond Bonfire Night; knock their jolly heads together. “Good stuff!” said the presenter.

    To the barricades

    Ken Loach’s 1983 documentary series Questions of Leadership opens with a sequence of earnest young trade unionists on platforms, exhorting the masses. They are then shown older, florid, self-satisfied and finally adorned in the ermine of the House of Lords. Once, at a Durham Miners’ Gala, I asked Tony Woodley, now joint general secretary of Unite, “Isn’t the problem the clockwork collaboration of the union leadership?” He almost agreed, implying that the rise of bloods like himself would change that. The British Airways cabin crew strike, over which Woodley presides, is said to have made gains. Has it? And why haven’t the unions risen against totalitarian laws that place free trade unionism in a vice?

    The BA workers, the firefighters, the council workers, the post office workers, the NHS workers, the London Underground staff, the teachers, the lecturers, the students can more than match the French if they are resolute and imaginative, forging, with the wider social justice movement, potentially the greatest popular resistance ever. Look at the web; listen to the public’s support at fire stations. There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Shelley and do it.


    New Statesman

    November 6, 2010 at 10:23 pm

  6. Long-term jobless ‘could face compulsory manual labour’

    ong-term benefit claimants could be forced to do compulsory manual labour under proposals being put forward by the government, it has emerged.

    Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is set to outline plans for four-week placements doing jobs like gardening and litter clearing.

    “The message will go across – play ball or it is going to be difficult,” said Mr Duncan Smith.

    Details will be unveiled in the Welfare Reform White Paper expected shortly.

    Under the plan, claimants thought to need ‘experience of the habits and routines of working life’ could be put on the month long, 30-hour a week placements.

    Anyone refusing to take part or failing to turn up on time to work could have their £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance stopped for at least three months.

    The Work Activity scheme is said to be designed to flush out claimants who have opted for a life on benefits or are doing undeclared jobs on the side.

    Reports suggest it will target people believed to be sabotaging efforts to get them back into work.

    The Welfare Reform White Paper, set to be unveiled in the coming week, will set out Mr Duncan Smith’s plans for a universal credit to replace the range of benefits currently claimed by the jobless.

    ‘Cycle of dependency’

    Under the scheme, job advisers would be given powers to require tens of thousands of claimants to take part in community work for charities or local councils.

    A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We will shortly be bringing forward further proposals on how to break the cycle of dependency blighting many of our communities and make sure work always pays.”

    Mr Duncan Smith said his plans were designed to reduce welfare dependency and make work pay.

    He said: “One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks’ manual work – turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they’re doing other work.

    “The message will go across; play ball or it’s going to be difficult.”

    The UK has 5m people on out-of-work benefits and one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe, with 1.9m children living in homes where no-one has a job.


    James Landale
    Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    When the government unveils its welfare reforms this week, there will be lots of new support for unemployed people – more help to find work, a new universal benefit to claim.

    But amid the carrots, there will also be some sharp sticks. One will be the threat that anyone who has been unemployed for a long time who refuses work could be forced to do community work placements.

    The Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith likes to talk of a new contract between the state and the unemployed.

    Compulsory community work is clearly part of the bargain.



    November 7, 2010 at 12:35 am

  7. Work-shy will be ‘pushed’ into working for free by welfare revolution

    People who do not try hard enough to find a job will be forced to work for free or lose their benefits, the Government will announce this week.

    In the most radical clampdown on the work-shy yet, Iain Duncan Smith will announce that the unemployed will be found compulsory 30 hour-a-week work placements and if they fail to turn up they will lose their Jobseekers’ Allowance for at least three months.

    The Welfare Secretary will announce the move as part of a groundbreaking package of measures aimed at reforming the benefit culture to “make work pay”.

    Launching a White Paper this week, Mr Duncan Smith will announce that a universal credit is planned as a simpler method of administering benefit and rewarding those who choose to find work.

    But there will be harsh sanctions for those who refuse to co-operate.

    In one of the most controversial measures, the Government will bring in compulsory work placements, whereby unemployed people who are judged to be failing in their efforts to find work will be given an “extra push”.

    Those forced to take up Work Activity Placements will be expected to spend 30 hours a week for four weeks at a time in a local business or project benefiting the community.

    If they do not attend or fail to complete the placement a “significant” financial sanction will be imposed, such as withholding Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 3 months, government insiders said.

    One source close to the plans said: “We know there are still some jobseekers out there who need an extra push to get them into the mindset of being in the working environment.

    “This is all about getting them back into a working routine which in turn makes them a much more appealing prospect for an employer looking to fill a vacancy, and more confident when they enter the workplace.

    “The goal is to break the habit of worklessness.”

    Some five million people are currently claiming out of work benefits in the UK, with 1.4 million claiming for 9 out of the last 10 years.

    Britain has one of the highest rates of workless households in Europe, with 1.9 million children living in homes where no one has a job.

    There are 900,000 people who have spent at least 10 years claiming Incapacity Benefit, while the cost of IB alone since 2000 has been almost £135bn and the welfare budget as a whole has increased by 40% in real terms from £63bn in 1996/1997 to £87bn in 2009/2010.

    As well as sanctions, Mr Duncan Smith will announce a reform of benefits payments designed to ensure work pays. He is expected to pledge that around 35p in every £1 people earn as they come off benefit will stay in their pocket to ensure there is an incentive to work.

    Currently some families on benefits lose more than £1 of income for every £1 they earn because of the withdrawal of state subsidies and tax credits.

    In an interview this weekend, Mr Duncan Smith said his reforms were “the biggest change since Beveridge introduced the welfare system”.

    Some charities opposed to the changes have warned that thousands of people could be pushed into poverty, in particular by reforms to incapacity benefit. Disability Alliance claims that up to a million people with long term sickness or disability could be affected.

    Despite this, there are signs that Labour could be close to supporting some of the measures. Douglas Alexander, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has said that Labour could support testing incapacity benefit claimants for their availability for work.

    Under the plans, claimants face a new 12-month cap on their benefits, if ruled able to work. People who cannot work, for example the terminally ill, would be given support with no time limit.


    The Torygraph

    November 7, 2010 at 12:40 am

  8. the duncan smith bandwagon again rolls on at continual speed,this time.

    “Long-term benefit claimants could be forced to do compulsory manual labour”

    could be the operative word and its not certain,it has to be suspected this will infringe rights as new deal,signing them away under the threat of sanction.


    what this is supposed to achieve and the reasons given are very dubious,its suggesting that the job centre will send directly to groups that will handle the thirty hour week but, given the lack of thought and duncan smiths rhetoric that increasingly appears synonymous as time goes on,it will have to waited to see what develops.

    however it fits all the previous displays of on the cheap/pointless/costs of dealing with skills that lead to real employment avoided/bullying which appears once more at the heart of this,and goes on to suggest further that the government are “panicking” about employment, such as the long term unemployed that is increasing and again out of control under a tory government led,the prospects of those sick and disabled being at very high levels of long term joblessness as figures have shown amongst employers and the previous goverments attempts to twist the figures around.

    its increasingly worrying this governments attitude towards those who are in poverty and receiving benefits/the unemployed,the sick.the vicious statements combined with the now suggestion of wrong doing is totally unacceptable and underhanded.the toxicity of economic failure has been openly targeted at the vulnerable as a scapegoat rather then those at which doors it lye’s.


    November 7, 2010 at 2:12 am

    • Well said, ken. It’s time that EVERYONE was thrown onto the dole and made to WORK for their benefits.

      Gas Chamber

      November 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

    • If there is a job there to be done, pay someone to do it. Don’t treat valuable work as a form of punishment. If the job needs doing, pay someone to do it so they can earn a living and hold their head high. When manual work is treated as some kind of a punishment for the sin of being unemployed, it demeans all manual work, shows that government has a poor opinion of workers, and belittles those “forced” to work who have in all likelihood been forced into the depressing state of long-term unemployment.


      November 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

    • What kind of compulsory community work is being considered?
      cos I can see it being street cleaning and litter picking
      so the paid council staff who should be doing those jobs turn up for work only to be told they aren’t needed anymore, the ‘unemployed’ are being forced to do the work instead. Next thing they’re down the jobcenter looking for work – with a fair chance that they could be back doing the same job they just lost, but for benefits instead of wages

      Jon Cooper

      November 7, 2010 at 9:38 am

    • lol there guys n girls n my town that clean the streets n pick up litter – they work for the council!


      November 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

    • If the middle-classes” who whine about “benefit scroungers” want their streets cleaned they should be prepared to PAY for it- even if that means charging yo through your Council Tax. Do Waitrose give you stuff for free? Thought not!


      November 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    • why is it always *community work* – why they hell should people clean, paint n sweep YOUR community for FREE. Do YOU work for FREE?

      Pink Flamingo

      November 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

  9. There are plenty of interesting comments after this article:

    Unemployed told: do four weeks of unpaid work or lose your benefits

    The unemployed will be ordered to do periods of compulsory full-time work in the community or be stripped of their benefits under controversial American-style plans to slash the number of people without jobs.

    The proposals, in a white paper on welfare reform to be unveiled this week, are part of a radical government agenda aimed at cutting the £190bn-a-year welfare bill and breaking what the coalition now calls the “habit of worklessness”.

    The measures will be announced to parliament by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, as part of what he will describe as a new “contract” with the 1.4 million people on jobseekers’ allowance. The government’s side of the bargain will be the promise of a new “universal credit”, to replace all existing benefits, that will ensure it always pays to work rather than stay on welfare.

    In return, where advisers believe a jobseeker would benefit from experiencing the “habits and routines” of working life, an unemployed person will be told to take up “mandatory work activity” of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period. If they refuse or fail to complete the programme their jobseeker’s allowance payments, currently £50.95 a week for those under 25 and £64.30 for those over 25, could be stopped for at least three months.

    The Department for Work and Pensions plans to contract private providers to organise the placements with charities, voluntary organisations and companies. An insider close to the discussions said: “We know there are still some jobseekers who need an extra push to get them into the mindset of being in the working environment and an opportunity to experience that environment.

    “This is all about getting them back into a working routine which, in turn, makes them a much more appealing prospect for an employer looking to fill a vacancy, and more confident when they enter the workplace. The goal is to break into the habit of worklessness.”

    Sanctions – including removal of benefit – currently exist if people refuse to go on training courses or fail to turn up to job interviews, but they are rarely used.

    The plans stop short of systems used in the US since the 1990s under which benefits can be “time limited”, meaning all payments end after a defined period. But they draw heavily on American attempts to change public attitudes to welfare and to change the perception that welfare is an option for life.

    Last night the shadow work and pensions secretary, Douglas Alexander, suggested government policy on job creation was reducing people’s chances of finding work: “The Tories have just abolished the future jobs fund, which offered real work and real hope to young people. If you examine the spending review then changes such as cuts to working tax credit are actually removing incentives to get people into work. What they don’t seem to get about their welfare agenda is that without work it won’t work.”

    Anne Begg, Labour MP and chair of the Commons select committee for work and pensions, said that many unemployed people already had a work record and carrying out work experience would give them less time to search for a job. “The problem is finding a job,” she added. “One of the reasons the last government moved away from work placements and towards things such as the Future Jobs Fund was that it actually acted as a hindrance to them looking for work.”

    The Observer has also learned that ministers have abolished the Social Exclusion Taskforce, which was based in the Cabinet Office and co-ordinated activity across departments to drive out marginalisation in society. Documents show that the unit has become a part of “Big Society, Policy and Analysis”.

    Jon Trickett, a shadow minister focusing on social exclusion, reacted angrily, saying that ministers should “hang their heads in shame”. Whitehall sources insisted the work would carry on, but more of it would take place in the Department for Work and Pensions.

    Naomi Eisenstadt, who was director of the taskforce until last year and is now an academic at Oxford University, said the shift was worrying. “I don’t think it is significant in terms of the name – call it a banana – who cares? What does worry me is why they are not using the civil servants who were doing the work on deep disadvantage in the Cabinet Office and exploiting their expertise,” she said.

    Eisenstadt added that it would be a concern if the government believed the “big society” could take the place of government intervention. “If you speak to any minister I am sure they would agree that civil society is one part of the solution, but not the whole solution,” she said.

    The proposals come as the government prepares to unveil policy plans across a number of departments. Tomorrow, the Ministry of Justice will reveal that thousands of criminals with serious mental illnesses or drug addictions will no longer be sent to prison but will instead be offered “voluntary” treatment in hospital. Documents will show that offenders will be free to walk away from NHS units because officials believe it would be pointless to create duplicate prisons in the community. “While treatment is voluntary, offenders in these programmes will be expected to engage, be motivated to change and to comply with the tough requirements of their community order,” they will say.

    Kenneth Clarke, the justice secretary, said: “Serious criminals who pose a threat to the public will always be kept locked up, but in every prison there are also people who ought to be receiving treatment for mental illness rather than housed with other criminals. The public would be better protected if they could receive that treatment in a more suitable setting.”


    Crystal Balls

    November 7, 2010 at 9:51 am

  10. […] Labour Shadow Minister Backs Abuse of Incapacity Claimants and ‘Welfare Reform’. […]

  11. Dear Mr Smith

    I write with reference to your recent statement : “play ball or it’s going to be difficult”. I must say I agree with you wholeheartedlty and you will not have to threaten me with a benefit sanction for refusing to get involved in the new scheme.

    What a marvellous idea, Mr Smith, getting all of us unemployed work shy types out in the fresh air playing ball games in exchange for our benefits, and as I understand it anyone who’s not onside with the idea, so to speak, will be out for a duck (as they say in cricket). Fine show.

    Of course many jsa claimants don’t bother with regular exercise and haven’t the first clue about personal achievement or teamworking skills so I would expect that well organised, honest sporting endeavours will do them the world of good. After all there are hardly any jobs they can apply for at the moment.

    I do hope that claimants will be allowed to select the specific ball games they will be playing. You should instuct Jobcentre staff to record claimants’ preferences on their jobseekers’ agreements that way you won’t have any whingeing from golfers or tennis players who have been directed to play Rugby, for example.

    I play 5- a- side football for a local over 50s team called The Creakies and I would only comply with your proposals if I were guaranteed football (I suppose you would refer to it as “soccer”) as my chosen ball game. Do try and have a word with jobcentre staff on my behalf over this, there’s a good chap.

    I spoke to the Creakies’s goalkeeper Ron Hacker a few days ago about the forthcoming scheme of yours and he’s as keen as I am to begin playing ball for his dole. We put him in goal as a result of an unfortunate incident years ago when his wife found he’d been having an affair with Vinegar Vera from the local chippie and kicked him extremely hard in the private parts. Poor old Hacker says from that day to this his forte has been the long ball game. I would have thought it was the crushed ball game.

    But who knows where your splendid idea may lead. We could organise ourselves into different leagues such as the Unmotivated, the Unconfident, the Malingeres and the Fraudsters, and we could play each other in knock out tournements just like the professionals – only without the hefty wage packets obviously as we would not wish to alert the Fraud Section with your Department. At some point in the future some of these games may even be listed as gambling events on internet betting sites and players would then be in an ideal position to earn themselves the odd pound or two, if you catch my drift, Mr Smith.

    A win-win situation for all concerened … well, at least for all those who have backed that particular outcome on that particular day.

    There will no doubt be a few individuals who are either unwilling or unable to participate in ball related activites and I would suggest such people could be allocated ancilliary tasks such as groundskeepers and goal post erectors. I understand that Mrs Hacker would be willing to ensure that these structures remain upright throughout the game.

    Your proposals have the full support of myself and Hacker and we would be pleased to see the scheme implimented as swiftly as possible.

    Yours sincrely

    PS, When this ball playing scheme is introduced will claimants still be required to look for jobs ?


    November 8, 2010 at 4:42 am

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