By Lea Pachta

Long-term Jobseekers Allowance claimants will be given the guarantee of a job or work placement as part of the Government’s radical next stage of welfare reform.

Publishing a Command Paper — Building Bridges to Work, the Government will offer all JSA claimants who have been out of work for two years a guaranteed job or work placement to prevent long term unemployment as the economy recovers. Claimants will be required to take up the offer if they cannot find other work to make sure people who lost their jobs during recession aren’t left to a life on benefits.

Alongside this, the Government is today laying regulations to abolish old style Incapacity Benefit and announcing new measures for those on sickness benefits. From October all Incapacity Benefits claimants will be reassessed with a new Work Capability Assessment which looks at what they can do and what help they need, rather than on whether they could do their previous job.

More people are expected to be found fit for work and they will be given extra intensive support from Day one to help them into work. People moving onto the new style Employment and Support Allowance will also be given more personalised help with stronger conditions attached so they can prepare to return to work in future.

Today’s measures will help deliver over £1.5bn pounds in savings from welfare reform over the next four years that are now built into the Treasury budget plans.

Government action has already kept unemployment much lower than expected, and the number of people on sickness benefits has fallen slightly during the recession compared to big increases in the 80s and 90s.

Work and Pensions Secretary of State, Yvette Cooper said:

“As the economy recovers, we have to make sure no one is left behind. In the 80s and 90s too many people were abandoned to long term unemployment or sickness benefits, pushing families into poverty, devastating communities and hurting the economy and the taxpayer too. That’s why it is more important than ever to press ahead with extra help and welfare reform.

“This is a “something for something” approach which gives people more help alongside a responsibility to take it up so that no one who is fit for work is left to a life on benefits.

“Getting people back to work is good for families, boosts local economies and helps the public finances too.”

Additional help to disabled people will be made available with the creation of a new Work Choice programme from October as well as expanding the Access to Work programme.

The new employment support including the Jobseekers Guarantee will be funded within DWP existing budgets by reshaping the help for long term unemployed through Job Centre Plus and changing the £300m Pathways programme which is not flexible or cost effective enough.

The Command Paper outlines:

– A new guarantee for the long term unemployed of a job or work placement — with a requirement to take it up for those who have been unable to find work for more than two years. Jobs will be provided through extending the Future Jobs Fund as well as private sector and voluntary sector internships and work placements.

– A major overhaul of support and conditions for those on long term sickness benefits including the abolition of old style Incapacity Benefit, and over 10,000 long term claimants each week to be reassessed according to the new Work Capability Assessment which looks at what they can do not what they can’t.

– Changes to the Work Capability Assessment to take better account of people’s ability to adapt to their disability, as well as to be more sensitive to fluctuating conditions such as ME and multiple sclerosis.

– For those whom it would be unreasonable to expect them to move towards work, the ESA Support Group provides additional financial support without the back-to-work activity.

– New personalised support, conditions and timetables for reassessment for those who are currently not fit for work but may be able to work in future — so they can prepare for work.

– Increased investment and a guaranteed place on Work Choice for ESA customers who have been on benefit for more than 2 years and who want to work.

– Extra intensive help for those found fit for work who have been out of work for years to get them early access to the training and work experience they need to get a job — including support to help manage heath conditions in the work place and specialist help in looking for and applying for jobs.

The Government expects that the reforms to Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance will deliver over £1.5bn of savings over the next five years and these are built into the Treasury plans. This is on top of £14bn savings from lower than expected unemployment and a further £1.5bn savings from getting more lone parents into work.

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