Blair launches New Deal to get sick and disabled back to work

The
welfare system is to be overhauled in a drive to get more sick and disabled
people back into the workforce, Tony Blair has announced.

The
Prime Minister said that employers need to better utilise the talents of people
on incapacity benefits, and claimed as many as one million want to get back to
work but fail to have the chance to do so.

"Many
people with a health problem or disability could and do want to work – yet
don’t. It’s a scandal that 2.7 million people on incapacity benefits are
written off and left to drift off into long-term unemployment," he said.

Blair
went on to announce a £100m investment in the New Deal for disabled people as
well as £120m on tax credits for the disabled, designed to make work
economically viable.

However,
he explained that the new measures came with a mutual responsibility and that
in return those receiving sickness benefits would have to visit a personal
adviser.

Benefit
claimants will see an adviser when they first become ill and then every three
years to discuss their work prospects.

The
Government is also considering a range of measures which will see closer links
being established with employers to stop illnesses becoming chronic and the
introduction of rehabilitation and employment programmes.

Blair
hinted that in future the Government would promote incapacity benefit claimants
to employers to help break down discrimination barriers.

By Ross Wigham

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