Welfare Reform Bill bad timing slammed by unions

Union leaders have lined up to attack the new Welfare Reform Bill, unveiled by the government yesterday (14 January).

The Bill would expand the role of the private sector in getting people into work, force lone parents to take part in training or other activities to help them move into the jobs market, and make the long-term unemployed work for their benefits.

But TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the legislation was “the wrong Bill” for the economic crisis the UK is experiencing.

“With thousands of people losing their jobs every week, now is not the time to introduce even tougher conditions for claimants,” he said.

“We’re also disappointed that the government appears to be persisting with plans that amount to a work-for-your-benefit scheme. Paid work is scarce enough. Forcing claimants to work for their dole too could make this even worse.”

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) warned that, through privatisation, the emphasis of the welfare state would shift to put profits before people.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The government should be putting its faith in the world-class skills and expertise of Jobcentre Plus, rather than the untried and untested private sector.”

The Welfare Reform Bill is another step in the government’s reforms that aim to reduce the burden of people claiming incapacity benefit – estimated to cost the economy up to £16bn a year.

Elizabeth Fells, head of welfare reform at the CBI, said: “Specialist providers from the private sector have a proven track record of getting some of the hardest-to-help people back into sustainable employment. The expertise of all sectors needs to be brought to bear here, and especially at a time of economic difficulty.”

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