The government today confirmed its intention to create a single welfare-to-work programme to help people get back into work and ensure that returning to employment pays.
Unveiling the coalition’s new welfare policy, Iain Duncan Smith, work and pensions secretary, pledged to help people get back into work rather than having them “parked on inactivity benefits”. He said the proportion of people on inactive benefits had almost tripled in the past 30 years to 41% of the inactive working-age population.
The announcement came as a State of the Nation report showed 1.4 million people have been on out-of-work benefits for nine or more of the past 10 years. More than one in four working-age adults – 10.6 million people – in the UK currently do not work, it revealed.
Duncan Smith warned that the current welfare system had “become regressive” and the UK “cannot afford to go on like this”.
Source: State of the Nation report
“We must be here to help people improve their lives – not just park them on long-term benefits. We must not underestimate the challenge ahead. One of the biggest problems is that for too many people work simply does not pay,” he said.
“We will create a Work Programme which will move towards a single scheme that will offer targeted, personalised help for those who need it most, sooner rather than later. My ministerial team is working on the details and we’ll be hearing more about the Work Programme in the coming weeks.”
The work and pensions secretary also reiterated his intention to increase the use of private providers and the third sector to deliver routes back into work, but warned the providers would be rewarded for creating sustainable jobs and the government “are not prepared to pay for anything less”.
Duncan Smith added benefits would be made conditional on people’s willingness to work, with payments being cut for those who failed to engage in finding employment. All current claimants of Incapacity Benefits will also be re-assessed to determine whether some could move on to Jobseekers’ Allowance and be encouraged to find work.
Under the new government, older workers will also be allowed on to welfare-to-work programmes immediately, rather than having to wait 12 months, as is currently the case.
The government will also encourage employers to provide “high-quality pensions for all their employees”.
From April 2011, the value of the basic state pension will be “triple-locked” against the rise in earnings and prices, but if neither of these increase it will rise by a guaranteed 2.5%.