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Social Security Benefits: Reform

Volume 487: debated on Monday 2 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what steps he plans to take in (a) the UK, (b) the North East, (c) Tees Valley district and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency to ensure that his policy on welfare reform policies will be effective; (245808)

(2) what assessment he has made of the effect on families in (a) the North East and (b) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency who have benefited from the Government’s policy on welfare reform.

Since 1997 our welfare reforms have contributed to a reduction of 26,600 people claiming out of work benefits in the North East and 864 in Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland constituency.

Our reforms have resulted in high numbers of people in work, and have put an end to the rise in the number of people claiming incapacity benefits.

Active intervention is key, at no time is this more important than in an economic downturn. If it is becoming harder to find work, it is right that we do more to help, not less. We need to learn the lessons from previous downturns, and from overseas: first, increase support, do not relax conditionality; second, do not move people onto inactive benefits; and third, maintain efforts to reduce inactivity.

Our Welfare Reform White Paper “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future” (CM: 7506) published on 10 December 2008 drives forward the transformation of the welfare state, turning it from being essentially passive to profoundly active. The Bill to enact these proposals is now before Parliament.

Previous experience has taught us that the worst thing we can do in a downturn is to write people off, consigning them to a lifetime on benefits. We are investing an additional £1.3 billion over the next two years to support Jobcentre Plus and our employment programmes; and a further £0.5 billion to guarantee more support to people unemployed for six months or more by providing incentives for firms to hire, access to help in setting up a business, extra funding for training and opportunities for work-focused volunteering.