Government vows to 'make work pay'

A grim picture of the level of poverty in the UK was painted by the coalition Government today as it unveiled plans to radically change the system to "make work pay".

Ministers complained that entire communities were existing at the "margins" of society, trapped in dependency and leaving disadvantaged children to become disadvantaged adults.



Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said sanctions will be used against benefit claimants who refuse to take up jobs, while all those on incapacity benefit will now be reassessed.



Charity groups said root and branch reform of the benefits system was "long overdue", but union leaders said the Government should be reducing unemployment by creating jobs, not driving people off welfare and "further into poverty".



Civil servants who administered welfare programmes told Mr Duncan Smith the system was "breaking" and in need of urgent attention, he said today.



He told an audience of welfare experts from the voluntary, private and public sectors that there was an "absurd" situation where some of the poorest people in the country faced huge penalties for trying to get off benefits and into work.



Pledging a new approach to fighting "persistent poverty", Mr Duncan Smith laid out some stark statistics showing there were more working age adults living in poverty than ever before, 5.3 million suffering "multiple disadvantages" and 1.4 million who had been on out-of-work benefits for nine or more of the last 10 years.



"This picture is set against a backdrop of 13 years of continuously increasing expenditure, which has outstripped inflation.



"Worse than the growing expense though, is the fact that the money is not even making the impact we want it to.



"A system that was originally designed to support the poorest in society is now trapping them in the very condition it was supposed to alleviate."



Mr Duncan Smith said that even in London, one of the richest cities in the world, wealth lived in close proximity to the "harsh realities" of poverty.



It was a "tragedy" that people on incapacity benefit for more than two years were more likely to retire or die than get a job.



"We must be here to help people improve their lives, not just park them on long-term benefits. Aspiration, it seems, is in danger of becoming the preserve of the wealthy."



The former Conservative party leader said he had inherited a "broken system", with almost five million people on out of work benefits and 1.4 million under-25s not working or in full-time education.



"We literally cannot afford to go on like this," said Mr Duncan Smith, pledging to end Labour's "programme-itis", where schemes were tailored "solely to meet the next headline".



The Government will create a Work Programme which will move towards a single scheme, including allowing older workers on to a welfare-to-work programme immediately rather than having to wait 12 months, as is currently the case.



Mr Duncan Smith highlighted the fact that people were better off claiming dole rather than working in a job paying £15,000 a year or less, risking trapping them and their families in poverty for years.



A report published by the Work and Pensions Department today revealed that income inequality in the UK was now at its highest level since comparable statistics began in 1961.



The research showed that social mobility in Britain was worse than in the US, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark, and a higher proportion of children grew up in workless households in the UK than in any other EU country.



Sally Copley, head of UK policy at Save The Children, said: "Root and branch reform of a benefits system is long overdue. Nearly four million children are still living in poverty in the UK. Their families need a decent chance to work, not a system which means taking a job leaves them worse off."



Dr John Philpott, chief economic adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "Mr Duncan Smith's approach to tackling poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency is the most visionary outlined by an incoming UK government minister in a generation."



Kate Wareing, Oxfam's director of UK poverty, said: "We broadly welcome this new approach to make the system fairer.



"Work should never be seen as a punishment and those on benefits should not be forced to work for less than the minimum wage. The assumption that people don't want to work is simply not true. Our experience is that people on benefits do want to work, and a big part of what holds them back is the benefit system."



Lizzie Iron, head of welfare policy at Citizens Advice, said: "Addressing poverty and inequality means making work pay, without freezing benefit levels, which would only serve to push people who can't work further into poverty."



Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: "Mr Duncan Smith's plans to force more people into work through harsher sanctions, and to extend the role of the private sector in back to work schemes, will do nothing to support unemployed workers."



Mind's chief executive Paul Farmer said: "The new Government has inherited both a benefits system that doesn't work and a benefits test that doesn't work for people with mental health problems."



Shadow work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We've seen a lot of hype but no actual policies. These plans for sickness benefit reform are the ones Labour was already introducing.



"They are cutting £300 million from employment help that was getting young people into work - abolishing the Future Jobs Fund and cutting tens of thousands of youth jobs when unemployment is still too high. How can you get more people into work if you're cutting the work for them to go to?"

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes