MPs blast 'failed' welfare reform

Wednesday, 5 July, 2006

THE Government's longawaited benefit revolution was last night branded a flop.

Ministers boasted they would get a million people on long-term sick and disability benefit into work over 10 years and save the taxpayer GBP 7billion a year.

But critics said the package offered nothing to those now on Incapacity Benefit because the new rules will be imposed only on people who start claiming from 2008.

They also accused Labour of backtracking on previous tough talk, amid suspicion that Tony Blair is running scared of a rebellion by backbench MPs. About 2.7million people now claim Incapacity Benefit - up from 1.2million in 1988 - at a total cost of GBP 12.5billion a year.

The figure in Scotland is more than 190,000 and, in certain parts of Glasgow, two in every five adults receive incapacity benefit.

Newly released welfare figures show Glasgow has the highest number of incapacity benefit claimants in the UK. More than 55,000 people in the city are on incapacity benefit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. Glasgow East and North East topped the list of 100 UK constituencies with the highest number of people receiving handouts. They get GBP 57.65 a week, rising to around GBP 78 after a year - an increase which ministers have described as a disincentive to get back to work.

David Ruffley, Tory Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, said: "This is a damp squib of a Bill. It may be long on good intentions but it is short on delivering enough effective help to claimants who want to get out of dependency and into jobs.''