The government has set out its new plans to get one million people off incapacity benefit and into work.
The government said the Green Paper – A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work – aimed to end “the legacy of benefit dependency and deprivation” in the UK.
Under reforms unveiled by work and pensions secretary, John Hutton, incapacity payment will be divided into two categories – a higher rate for those who cannot work and a lower rate for those who are deemed able to attend training to return to work and to go to interviews.
Under the strict new rules those in the lower bracket would see their benefits cut if they refused to attend either training or job interviews.
Incapacity benefits cost the UK £12bn annually and the government hopes to cut £7bn from the bill by getting 80% of people of working age into employment under the new scheme.
Hutton said the Green Paper would set a new direction enabling and empowering people to fulfil their potential and ambitions rather than consigning them to a lifetime on benefit.
“Our plans will redefine the role of the welfare state,” he said. “The fundamental emphasis will be on what people can do not what they cannot.
“Essentially we want to return to fundamental principles where the welfare state is able to respond to people’s abilities and help them into the workplace – not one that condemns them to a life on benefits,” he said.
The Public and Commercial Services union said there were doubts that government departments would be able to deliver the reforms due to staff cuts as a result of its efficiency drive following the Gershon review.