Government will fund plans for benefit system reform, Johnson insists

    Alan Johnson today pledged that funding would be provided to
    implement the government’s proposed reforms to incapacity
    benefits that were announced last week, writes Amy
    Taylor
    .

    New Asset  
    Alan Johnson

    The work and pensions secretary, who was speaking at a lecture
    organised by think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research,
    said that the new measures would require investment but would lead
    to savings in the future.

    Kate Stanley, head of social policy at IPPR, said it was
    “essential” that resources were made available to
    ensure the infrastructure was good enough to achieve the new
    proposals’ aims.

    The government announced the biggest shake-up to incapacity
    benefit since it was created last week.
    Unlike the current system, the proposed new benefits,
    rehabilitation support allowance and disability and sickness
    allowance, will differentiate between people with severe conditions
    and those with potentially more manageable conditions.

    People with less serious conditions, who will receive the
    rehabilitation support allowance, will get a basic benefit at job
    seeker allowance level – about £55. They can top this up
    to more than the current long-term incapacity benefit rate
    (£74 per week) by engaging in work-focused interviews and in
    activities that will help them return to work such as training and
    basic skills.

    The government claims that those who cannot work, who will get the
    disability and sickness allowance, will be better off than they are
    now under the plans – although no figures have yet been
    disclosed.

    It has also announced that the Pathways to Work pilot schemes,
    which help people on incapacity benefit back into employment, will
    be expanded to cover 900,000 people within two years.

    Stanley said that there would be a need for ongoing training for
    personal advisers and an expansion of suitable training, voluntary
    and rehabilitation options for clients.

    “In the context of significant cuts being required by the
    department for work and pensions following the Gershon review, this
    is likely to be a challenge for the secretary of state and his
    department,” she said.

    Johnson said that the fact that there were “head count
    reductions” in the DWP was set against the fact that there
    would be another 10,500 staff through the expansion of Pathways to
    Work.

     

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