Welfare reform green paper heralds tougher regime for claimants

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell is due to unveil a welfare reform green paper today promising a tougher regime for claimants including disabled people, substance misusers and lone parents.

A draft of the paper, leaked to Sky News, lays out plans – many of which have already been announced – to increase requirements on claimants to seek work, obtain training, take jobs and, in the case of substance misusers, undergo treatment.

Specific plans include:-

  • Requiring jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants to do at least four-weeks’ full-time work in return for their benefits after a year of claiming.
  • Transferring long-term JSA claimants to private, voluntary or public sector welfare-to-work providers who will be paid by results.
  • Making JSA claimants who need it undertake training to help them into work.
  • Obliging people who have problems with crack cocaine or opiates to attend treatment in return for receiving benefits.

Proposals to toughen regime

However, it also includes consultative proposals to further increase the “conditionality” of benefits, such as:-

  • Making people who have been on JSA for more than two years work full-time in return for the benefit.
  • Making those who receive the employment and support allowance (ESA) – which will replace incapacity benefit this October – look for work and apply for appropriate jobs.
  • Extending the requirement to undergo training to ESA claimants and lone parents with children aged five and over. The government has already decided to make lone parents seek work when their youngest child turns seven – down from the current 16 – from October 2010.

But the paper also includes plans to tackle child poverty by enabling lone parents to fully disregard child maintenance from their income when calculating means-tested benefits. The government had previously planned to allow parents to disregard child maintenance from benefit claims at a rate of £40 a week by 2010.

It proposes consulting on giving disabled people the opportunity to receive all funding for care and support – including back-to-work services – as an individual budget, so they can personalise services to meet their needs.


While charities and campaign groups welcomed aspects of the proposals they raised concerns about the increased pressure on claimants.

Turning Point chief executive Victor Adebowale said people who misused drugs needed a “stepped” approach to find work He said: “Although some people are ready to get straight back to full-time work, for others this would be too great a leap. It wouldn’t work for employers and would be likely to push them back into drugs and crime. This approach threatens to raise the cost to the public purse in the long-term, not only through benefits but also through other health, social care, and criminal justice costs.”

Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Many of these proposals increase pressure on parents and disabled people – if so many who are not working want employment then there is absolutely no need to ratchet up conditions and threats. A better strategy is to ensure decent jobs with decent conditions. Rushing parents into inappropriate jobs risks poverty pay and jobs which undermine family responsibilities.”

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Government information on welfare reform

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