» Monday, November 26, 2007

Welfare Reform

The Prime Minister’s Spokesman began by giving details of the welfare reform section of the Prime Minister’s speech to the CBI National Conference. The idea he said was the intention to move towards a system whereby people who were able to work but were on benefits should be engaged in some form of training, in order to prepare them for work. There were a number of measures being announced this morning that moved the system in that general direction. Firstly, there would be a new skills health-check, for jobseekers allowance (JSA) claimants and new incapacity benefit (IB) claimants, six months after they had started claiming. This would be a new mandatory skills check. For those on jobseekers allowance, the Government would pilot making any subsequent training mandatory for claimants after six months, so that tougher conditionality was in place in order to encourage training in relation to JSA and IB.

The Government would also reform the 16 hours rule, which currently meant people on JSA and IB lost benefit entitlement if they were studying or training for more than 16 hours per week. This would be reformed in order to remove the disincentive built in for people on benefit to train.

The Government would also make some reforms to incapacity benefit. As well as the mandatory skills check for new claimants of incapacity benefit, the Government would also role out the Pathways To Work programme, a programme of intensive support for new recipients of incapacity benefit. This would be rolled out to existing claimants as well, so there would be a new requirement on those receiving incapacity benefit, under the age of 25, to go into the Pathways To Work programme and for example be required to attend work-focussed interviews.

In an environment where the Government knew that the number of unskilled jobs available in Britain was going to fall dramatically over the next decade, it was therefore important that those people who were on benefit, were given much stronger incentives and support to get the skills necessary to prepare for the workforce of the next decade.

Asked what would happen if people on JSA did not take up mandatory training, the PMS replied that people would lose their benefit entitlement. It would be a requirement of receiving JSA in these pilot schemes, that people would move on to mandatory training. Asked where the five and a half million unskilled jobs would disappear from, the PMS said that there had been a report that was published in the PBR 2006 by Lord Leitch, which gave a very detailed analysis of likely trends in employment and the skills composition of the workforce up to 2020. The PMS said that this would be the best place to look for the detailed analysis people were looking for.

Asked how long the pilot schemes would last for and was the intention to role it out on a national scale, the PMS replied that clearly the Government would not be piloting something if there wasn’t a general desire to move in that direction. It would be a big step and it was a complex area. Every individual had different needs so there might be different ways in which it could be done. The point of the pilots was to examine how this might be done in practice. The PMS added that it was actually quite common in this area to pilot schemes of this kind, before they are rolled out nationwide.

Asked when the pilots were starting, the PMS replied that people should check with DWP, but the Government would try to do it as soon as it was practical.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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