The long-awaited welfare reform bill was published by the government today.
The bill contains powers to replace incapacity benefit with a new employment and support allowance from 2008 and aims to get more people off benefits and into work.
Under the plans people with more manageable conditions will be able to claim the highest rate of the allowance, worth more than the current long-term
incapacity benefit rate of £76 a week, only if they undergo work-focused interviews, agree action plans and carry out work-related activity.
Failure to meet these conditions would see their benefit reduced in a series of cuts stopping at the level of jobseekers allowance – about £55 a week. People with more serious conditions will not be required to meet any requirements to qualify for the highest rate of the benefit.
The exact levels of the benefit are yet to be revealed but John Knight, head of policy at disability charity Leonard Cheshire, said that assurances were needed from ministers that new claimants would not receive less than people do now.
“The average payment of Incapacity Benefit currently works out at the equivalent of just £2.40 an hour, far below the minimum wage. Any reform programme must be based on a commitment to ensuring that disabled people are supported out of poverty – it must not be based simply on a desire to cut costs,” he said.
Welfare Reform Bill from: www.dwp.gov.uk/aboutus/welfarereform