The government has pledged to help employers and the medical profession work together and help people with disabilities to return to work.
In his first speech on disability as secretary of state for work and pensions, David Blunkett said his department and the Department of Health were determined to support people with disabilities back into work.
Speaking at the Remploy conference, Blunkett praised employers for “rising to the challenge of employing disabled people” and appreciating the benefits of a diverse workforce.
“But this is not just down to employers,” he said. “We need a partnership approach where health professionals and providers also play a part and recognise that moving back into work improves your health and well-being rather than the reverse. And helping employers to phase in a return to work is a key task as this involves breaking down barriers.”
Blunkett also gave reassurances about the government’s plans for reforming incapacity benefit.
“We will not write you off if you don’t write yourself off. Incapacity benefit reform is a promise not a threat,” he said. “We are aware that there are uncertainties, fears, and apprehension. We will listen and ask people to speak for themselves. We are all in this together,” he said.
The government’s approach to tackling incapacity benefit was set out in a five-year strategy launched in February.
It included plans to replace incapacity benefit with two new benefits – rehabilitation support allowance and disability and sickness allowance – and scrap the incremental increase in rates that was seen to be a disincentive to leaving the benefit.