Iain Duncan Smith sets out Welfare Reform Bill plans

Published on Thursday, 17 February 2011 09:32
Posted by Scott Buckler

The government is promising to make poor people "better off" as it sets out plans to ensure those in work are paid more than the unemployed

A "universal credit", sanctions for those turning down jobs and a cap on benefits paid to a single family will be among the changes outlined. But ministers have dropped plans to impose a 10% housing benefit cut for anyone unemployed for more than a year.

Labour back some changes but say help for people to find work is inadequate.

It has criticised the government's back-to-work programme, a centrepiece of the package, saying thousands of young people are being "betrayed" at a time of record youth unemployment.


'Better off'

Ministers will explain how they plan to reshape the welfare system to try to ensure people are better off in work than on benefits, to simplify its operation and to help people get jobs.

They say the fact that five million people of working age are on out-of-work benefits, 1.4 million of those for nearly a decade, while unemployment has become entrenched in many communities shows that the current system is not working.

Iain Duncan Smith has become something of an evangelist for welfare reform. But the task he faces is probably even more daunting than that faced by any recent government - most of whom also pledged to "make work pay".

The difficulty is that successful welfare reform in other parts of the world has always been carried out in boom times - when there are jobs and public money to help people find work.

There is also the sheer scale of the problem he faces, with more than five million people on out-of-work benefits. The government is determined to move ahead at pace with more than half of all claimants moved on to the universal credit by the end of this parliament.

Lastly, the government has got an awful lot else on its reform agenda, with plans for sweeping change involving the NHS, schools, the police and the constitution.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it used to be the case that most new jobs were taken by people from overseas because "our own people, young and middle-aged, wouldn't take and couldn't take those jobs".

"That will be a thing of the past,"
he said.

"What will happen is British people will genuinely be able to get British jobs because they will be incentivised to take those jobs. We will expect them to take those jobs - work will pay better than benefits.

"A life on benefits will no longer be an option for somebody. Right now there are huge numbers of people sitting on benefits, sometimes in rented accommodation that people who work could never dream of affording."

On dropping the plans to reduce housing benefit for the long-term unemployed, Mr Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it would "not be" in the Welfare Reform Bill.

He said: "Nobody will be worse off [under the changes]. They will be cash-protected."

Mr Duncan Smith also said: "The universal credit will make sure that the poorest in society will be better off."

Source: ©BBC News

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