Queen’s Speech: Benefits claimants who refuse work targeted

Plans for legislation to penalise benefits claimants who refuse jobs were included in the Queen's Speech today.

Plans for legislation to penalise benefits claimants who refuse jobs were included in the Queen’s Speech today.

At the opening of parliament, the Queen announced the government’s plan for a welfare reform bill by saying: “People will be supported into work, with sanctions for those who refuse jobs.” She added that the reforms would make the welfare system fairer and simpler.

Guy Parckar, head of policy at Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “It must not be done as a cost cutting exercise it’s about better support for people.” Parckar added focussing on improving support into work would also deliver cost savings.

Rob Greig, chief executive of the national Development Team for Inclusion, warned changes should not focus on those who were at the margins but those who faced the biggest challenges in finding work. “It needs to address the way the benefits system acts as a barrier for disabled people to get into paid employment,” he said.

Disability groups have already raised concerns about welfare changes, fearing that recipients are pushed on to a lower level of benefit. At present, jobseekers’ allowance pays £25 less a week on average than incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance.

Earlier this year, a Department for Work and Pensions report found that many Job Centre Plus staff felt disabled people were incorrectly being certified fit to work under the current work capability assessment. This determines whether those on incapacity benefit should move on to job seekers’ allowance or employment and support allowance.

Steve Ford, chief executive of Parkinson’s UK, said those with Parkinson’s were often misidentified as fit for work because their condition fluctuates. He added: “We need to change people’s attitudes to those who genuinely cannot work and make sure that no-one with complex conditions like Parkinson’s is unfairly accused of being a benefits cheat.”

Today the department said a decision had not been taken on whether to review the assessments alongside welfare reform.

Neil Coyle, director of policy at the Disability Alliance, said he was concerned that the government proposals suggest it wants to simplify incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance and job seekers allowance into one benefit. He said: “Disabled people know that a one size fits all approach doesn’t usually meet the needs of people with impairments.”

The Queen’s Speech also reiterated the government’s commitment to establishing a commission to develop a sustainable funding solution for long-term care. It has committed to this reporting within a year.

In addition, more power will be devolved to councils, and co-operatives, charities and social enterprises will be encouraged to play a greater role in the development and running of services.

At-a-glance guide to the Queen’s Speech


What does it do? 

The Great Repeals Bill, also know as  The Freedom Bill

Scraps ContactPoint

Education and Children’s Bill

A ‘pupil premium’ will be introduced, so that more money follows the poorest pupils, encouraging schools to enrol them

Public Bodies (Reform) Bill

Will pave the way for reducing number and cost of government quangos, with a view to saving £1bn per year by lowering the cost of bureaucracy. However, some, including the children’s commissioner and the Care Quality Commission, are believed to be safe

Decentralisation and Localism bill

Local government finance to be reviewed. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, to oversee the drive to devolve greater powers to councils and local communities

Cap on non-EU economic migrants – secondary legislation

Will cap the amount of people coming from outside the EU and could have consequences for care staffing

Welfare Reform Bill

Will reduce the overlap between job seeker’s allowance, incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance and is likely to speed up work capability assessments of people on incapacity benefit

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