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Following the recent Welfare Reform White Paper, which was announced by secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, Govtoday sat down with Minister for Employment, Chris Grayling, to discuss how the Coalition Government and the DWP will be assessing those currently on incapacity benefit. 


Minister Grayling can you tell us how will the reassessments end the one -size- fits all approach to those with disabilities and health issues?

Thousands of people were abandoned by the last Government on Incapacity Benefit (IB). Around 900,000 people have been claiming IB for a decade or more with no active help from the state to make the move back into work. We want to change that and give people the support that is right for them.

For the most severely disabled and those who are terminally we will increase the support they receive through the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and there will be no expectation that they should go back to work.

However, those people who are reassessed and found fit for work or who have the potential to move back into work will get the support which is right for them to make the journey back to employment. The new Work Programme we are bringing forward will provide that support, and build it around the needs of the individual rather than the old fashioned one size fits all approach dictated by Whitehall.

Could you explain more about the Work Capability Assessment?

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) focuses on what an individual can do, rather than what they cannot.  It looks at the effects of any health condition or disability on a customer’s ability to carry out a range of everyday activities, including walking, sitting, memory and concentration and includes a discussion around a range of activities which customers may be able to perform.

Its important that the Assessment works and we should strive to get the right decision every time. I made some immediate changes to the assessment in the summer to ensure that it better recognises the issues facing people undergoing chemotherapy. I have also asked a leading occupational therapist, Professor Malcolm Harrington, to undertake a full independent review and suggest any changes which could improve the process further.

Fundamentally this is about looking to see what someone could reasonably do in the workplace and what help and support they need to get them there.

What are your expectations for the trial and how will the assessments be maintained and managed?

The purpose of the reassessments in Burnley and Aberdeen is to see the process from a claimant’s perspective and get their feedback. It will also allow us to test staff reaction and highlight any areas for learning and development. We’re providing extra financial assistance in those two areas to ensure people get all the support they need.

Lessons learnt in Burnley and Aberdeen will be used to review the reassessment process and make appropriate refinements, ensuring that the process is managed as successfully as possible.

Minister, There is currently around 2.1 million people trapped on benefits, could you tell our audience how the Coalition Government expect to raise employment levels?

Sadly the 2.1 million on incapacity benefit is the just the start. In reality there are around five million people who are trapped on out of work benefits in this country – a shocking indictment of our broken welfare system.

That’s why we are bringing forward the Work Programme, a multi-billion pound investment which will be the largest welfare to work programme this country has ever seen.

It will give private and voluntary sector providers longer to work with individuals and greater freedom to decide the appropriate support for them. It will offer significant new opportunities for providers to deliver truly flexible and personalised support, building appropriate partnerships to do so. 

This will replace the patchwork of inefficient and expensive employment programmes we inherited and ensure that people get tailor made support to get them back to work.

In terms of the economy as a whole the Chancellor has taken the urgent action needed to pull Britain back from the brink of bankruptcy and started the process of rebuilding our economy. As we start to grow again we are creating an environment in which businesses can flourish, creating jobs and opportunities – and with the Work Programme I want to make sure benefit claimants are at the front of the queue to take them.

Finally Minister, many people currently on benefits lack the skills to find employment, could you tell our Govtoday audience how you and the Coalition Government plan to train and re-skill benefit claimers?

The longer someone has been on benefits the harder it becomes for them to successfully make the journey back into work. It’s for that reason that we have developed the Work Programme in such way as to give providers as much freedom as possible to design support around the specific needs of the individual.

That means the jobseeker gets the help that they need most – training, skills, confidence building and so on – to give them the best possible chance of getting into work.

Written by Chris Grayling
Thursday, 03 February 2011 11:11

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