British Government Announces Work-for-Welfare-Benefits Plan

Britain's Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell on Monday announced a "radical overhaul of the welfare state" -- requiring all welfare recipients who can work and do not have children younger than seven to work or lose their benefits. Purnell's plan would eliminate incapacity benefits by 2013 and abolish income support, resulting in two working-age benefits: the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for those with a medical condition that prevents them from working and the Jobseekers' Allowance for everyone who is able to work.

Purnell explained the plan to Parliament and unveiled it in a green paper posted at www.dwp.gov.uk/noonewrittenoff and subject to public comments until Oct. 22. "Our proposals are based on a simple deal: more support in return for greater responsibility," said Purnell. "This green paper proposes a simpler benefit system that rewards responsibility, gives people the incentive to do the right thing, and ends the injustice of people being written off on benefits for life without any hope of getting the support they need to get back to work. We will help people find work, but they will be expected to take a job."

The plan would move people on incapacity benefits to ESA by 2013; this would provide temporary support for all but the most severely disabled people, according to his department. The opposition Conservatives immediately hailed the plan, although their leader said it took its ideas directly from proposals offered by his party in the past.

Purnell said the plan will double funding for Access to Work, a program that provides assistance to disabled workers and their employers; it currently helps 24,000 people per year gain employment or stay in their job.

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