Disabled to face `workfare' checks

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SINGLE MOTHERS and the disabled are to be called to regular interviews at government offices under a new move towards an American-style "workfare" system.

The jobless are already summoned to interviews and can lose their benefits if they are not available for work. Now Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Social Security, intends to extend similar checks to lone parents and disabled people claiming incapacity benefit.

Those who refuse to attend follow-up interviews could lose part of their benefits. The plan will alarm some Labour MPs, who staged their biggest rebellion since the general election over cuts in benefits for single mothers. Ministers insist they are not seeking to cut state payments but help those who want to find work. "Is it really right that a single mum can claim benefits without considering other options?" a government source said last night.

The proposals will save an estimated pounds 750m a year and will affect 170,000 people.

Frank Field, the former minister for welfare reform, welcomed the proposals last night but warned that restricting incapacity benefit would increase welfare dependency.