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22 September 2008
Green paper on welfare reform launched
Incapacity benefits and Income Support are to be abolished as part of far-reaching new proposals, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell announced yesterday. Proposals were announced to scrap incapacity benefits by 2013 and abolish Income Support to create a more streamlined system based on just two working-age benefits – the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), for those who have a medical condition which prevents them from working, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) for everyone who is able to work. Under the plans, people on incapacity benefits will be moved on to ESA by 2013. This will provide temporary support for all but the most severely disabled people. Everyone currently on Incapacity Benefit and new claimants will go through a new enhanced medical assessment and be assessed on what they can do, not on what they can't. Doctors will be asked to make clear the point at which the individual should be fit for work and people will be assessed again at that point.

People with severe disabilities will get more cash under ESA. The rest who qualify for the benefit will be placed in a “work” category. They will receive personalised back-to-work support to help them prepare for work and overcome any barriers they face. It will be made clear to this group that ESA is a temporary situation to help them get fit to return to work. In return for these greater expectations for people on benefits to find work, measures offering greater support were also announced. These include:

· Doubling the funding of Access to Work which provides assistance to disabled workers and their employers, which already helps 24,000 people a year gain employment or stay in their job. There will also be significant increases for the schemes which provide support into employment for the most severely disabled people. People on incapacity benefits who find work through the Pathways to Work programme could get a £40-a-week top-up on their wages to ease the transition into work · A “full disregard” for child maintenance, so that payments will not be taken into account when calculating how much out-of-work benefits a parent should get. The full disregard, combined with existing reforms to the child maintenance system, and measures to support lone parents with older children into work, will lift up to 200,000 children out of poverty. · Exploring more ways disabled adults can be given greater control over the combined budget which the government spends on their support. The publication of the green paper, entitled No one Written Off: Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility, is followed by three months of public consultation on its proposals. Deadline for responses is 22nd October.

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