James Purnell (Work and Pensions Secretary of State) spoke today in Parliament about Labour’s new ideas with regard to the unemployed and how they get benefit. As the Independent points out, (all the papers covered this but I have included Ben Russell’s take on it) it would mean a far from sympathetic deal for those unfortunate enough to be drug addicts. Incapacity benefit is to be scrapped altogether. Steer clear of drugs. (240,000 addicts on benefit). And don’t fall ill.
Heroin or crack cocaine addicts will be forced to seek treatment or lose their benefits and the long-term unemployed will be forced to work for their dole under the most radical reform of the welfare state in more than 60 years.
Incapacity benefit and income support will also be abolished in a package that stresses there can be “no right to a life on benefits” for anyone capable of working.
A leaked draft of the Government’s welfare Green Paper, due to be published on Monday, sets out tough conditions for claimants, making it clear that they must match the right to help with the responsibility to find a job.
The plans billed in the document as a “social revolution”, are likely to provoke an angry reaction from some Labour MPs.
Under the proposals, the estimated 240,000 heroin or crack addicts on benefits will be required to seek treatment in return for their money. The document warns: “Many people who are dependent on benefit are also dependent on drugs so we cannot hope to tackle one without addressing the other.”
Pilot schemes will increase pressure on the long-term unemployed to seek work. People on jobseekers’ allowance for more than a year will be forced to do at least four weeks’ full-time work in return for benefits and will be put on back-to-work programmes run by private or voluntary groups paid by results. Those out of work for two years could face tougher tests such as daily signing-on. Incapacity benefit will be replaced with an employment and support allowance. People unable to work will get a higher rate of long-term benefits.
Income support will also be abolished, with claimants transferred on to jobseekers’ allowance. Single mothers will have to seek work once their children turn seven. At present they can remain on benefits until their children reach 16.
In a letter accompanying the leaked draft, James Purnell, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said he wanted to maintain “a clear balance between rights and responsibilities”.
Yesterday’s leak of a full copy of the Green Paper just days before its official publication caused dismay among officials.
But the Conservatives leapt to claim credit for the proposals, many of which they said were lifted from their policy paper on welfare reform earlier this year. Government sources dismissed that suggestion.
Chris Grayling, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Many of these proposals first appeared in our Welfare Green Paper six months ago, and it would be great news for Britain if the Government is planning to introduce the radical change that we have been arguing for.”
Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrats’ work and pensions spokesman, said: “This Green Paper ignores the fact that over half of the adults living in poverty are in work, largely thanks to the poverty trap Labour has created with means-tested benefits.”