The welfare system is to be overhauled in a drive to get
more sick and disabled people back into work, Tony Blair has announced.
The Prime Minister said employers need to better utilise the
talents of people on incapacity benefits, and claimed as many as 1 million want
to get back to work but don’t have the chance.
"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 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 prospects.
The Government is also considering a range of measures which
will see closer links 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.