From education to employment

Changes to Welfare System to Help People Get and Keep Work

The Welfare Reform Bill marks the next stage in the Government’s plans to modernise the welfare state and break down the barriers that have prevented people from getting into the workplace and staying in work.

The Bill contains powers to replace Incapacity Benefits with a new Employment Support Allowance and a new Personal Capability Assessment, which should enable individuals to have access to more relevant support and get them into appropriate work.

No More Writing Off

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, John Hutton MP said: “For too long, people have been written off by the system. This will change. We are putting in place more tailored help and support for individuals to help them get back into work. In exchange for this additional help we will be asking for people to engage with us and take the necessary steps to get back into the work place.”

Mr Hutton also emphasizes that this Bill is not about imposing people to acquire employment. Mr. Hutton said: “This is not about forcing people back into work where it is not appropriate. We know that some need the extra help and assistance that only the welfare state can provide and they will continue to receive their benefits without conditionality.”

Two Strikes

The Bill also aims to tackle benefit fraud by providing more power that will strengthen the “two strikes” rules; people who commit a second benefit related offence- within five years of their first one- could have their benefit withdrawn. There will also be a framework to reform and improve the design and administration of the Housing Benefit. Across the private sector, it will provide for the roll-out of the Local Housing Allowance ““ a simplified Housing Benefit scheme that is currently being tested in 18 Local Authority areas. There will also be measures to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Moreover, further steps to increase employment opportunity will be implemented through secondary legislation, such as providing more support to lone parents and breaking down the barriers to work, as experienced by older people. Along with the publication of the Welfare Reform Bill, the Minister for Welfare Reform, Jim Murphy MP, announced the national roll-out of Pathways to Work. The pilots have already helped to get 25,000 people back into work and this programme will be available to all new IB claimants by April 2008.

Hope for the Future?

Mr Murphy said: “Pathways has been a great success in getting people back to work, the facts speak for themselves with 25,000 people in work who would otherwise be on benefits. We estimate that the average cost per job through Pathways is £800, with each person who leaves benefits generating over £8,000 in savings to be reinvested in public services.”

Pathways already covers some of the most deprived parts of the country and from 30th October 2006 it will be extended to all new IB claimants in Greater Mersey, Staffordshire and the eastern valleys of the South Wales Valleys districts. Pathways will then be rolled out across Britain by April 2008. Mr Murphy is pleased that Pathways is reaching out those who really need it, saying: “Pathways is also representative of the sort of welfare system I want to see ““ one that is flexible, individual and supportive and above all delivering for the people who need it.”

By October 2007, the following fifteen districts should have access to the Pathways service: Greater Manchester East & West; Cardiff & Vale/South East Wales; Forth Valley, Fife, Tayside; North Wales & Powys; Black Country; City and East London; Birmingham and Solihull; Nottinghamshire; West Yorkshire; Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders; Cornwall & Devon; Central London; Lincolnshire and Rutland; Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth; Norfolk.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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