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Volume 718: debated on Monday 29 March 2010


My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today, I am publishing Building Bridges to Work: New Approaches to Tackling Long-term Worklessness, which sets out the next steps of welfare reform and will ensure no one is left to a life on benefits.

Historically too many people who were out of work were written off. In the 1980s and early 1990s long-term worklessness soared. We have had to deal with that legacy. Since 1997 worklessness has fallen, the number of people on working age inactive benefits has fallen by 300,000 and the action we have taken has prevented a big increase in inactivity during this recession.

Today we are going further. In Building Bridges to Work: New Approaches to Tackling Long-term Worklessness we set how we will support the long-term workless back into work, and support disabled people and those with health conditions who are at risk of long term unemployment and worklessness to make sure no one gets left behind in the recovery. We will do this by introducing more individualised help alongside stronger personalised conditions, including extra support for people who are newly assessed as fit for work but may have spent a number of years on an incapacity benefit.

For those who are doing their bit but still struggling to get a job, the Government will step in and do their bit too. For jobseekers who do not find work after two years we will guarantee them employment or work placements and for people on employment and support allowance who do not find work after two years, we will provide a guaranteed place on our specialist disability employment programme—Work Choice.

I am also today publishing the Government’s response to the Social Security Advisory Committee’s consultation on the Employment and Support Allowance (Transitional Provisions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) (Existing Awards) Regulations and laying these regulations before Parliament.

Over the next three years healthcare professionals will assess current incapacity benefits claimants, looking at what they can do, as well as what they cannot, using the work capability assessment to move them to our more active welfare regimes, culminating in the abolition of old style incapacity benefits by April 2014.

To ensure people are directed to the right support to get into work we will amend the work capability assessment and our proposals for the revised assessment are also published today.

The revised assessment will, for example, take better account of an individual’s ability to adapt to their condition and introduce improved assessment of fluctuating conditions.

These proposals involve a radical change in the way we use our resources to support people at risk of long-term worklessness—providing more personalised help and conditions coupled with guarantees to prevent those who are able to work spending a lifetime on benefits.