Hutton blames 'Thatcher's legacy' for explosion of incapacity benefit

Sick and disabled people will receive the same state benefits as the able-bodied jobless unless they make efforts to return to work, the Government announced.

A Green Paper on welfare reform disclosed that the sick and disabled could be paid about £20 a week less than at present unless they took advantage of a £360m package of help, advice and rehabilitation.

The changes will take effect in 2008 when incapacity benefit (IB), currently worth up to £76.45 a week, will be replaced by a more generous employment and support allowance. New claimants could see their payments gradually cut to the level of jobseeker's allowance, currently £56.20 a week, if they are judged capable of some work but refuse to seek it.

John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, told MPs that the 2.7 million IB claimants would remain on their current benefit level, but could see that reduced if they failed to engage in work-focused interviews and agree an action plan.

Mr Hutton confirmed a target of taking one million people off IB in 10 years to save taxpayers up to £7bn a year. Accusing the Tories of pushing people on to IB to cut the jobless figures, he said: "It is time we brought this shameful legacy of Thatcherism to an end."

Other measures to help the Government ensure an 80 per cent employment rate include getting one million more older people into work by extending the New Deal to the jobless in their fifties, who will face benefit cuts if they decline work or training opportunities.

Some 360,000 lone parents will be wooed off benefit into work through more regular work-based interviews, and a scheme to limit the cost of housing benefit will be extended nationwide.

Although 67 Labour MPs rebelled over the means-testing of IB in 1999, Mr Hutton won the support of most Labour MPs yesterday by putting a positive emphasis on his "carrot and stick" approach and insisting he was not being punitive.

There was little sign of a repeat of the revolt against the Government's schools reforms after the dropping of some draconian ideas demanded by Downing Street - such as a time-limit for claiming IB and "naming and shaming" the GPs who signed off the most claimants. But employment advisers will sit in doctors' surgeries from next month in a trial scheme.

Philip Hammond, the Tory spokesman on welfare, praised Mr Hutton for "grasping the nettle" on IB reform but said the Tories had "heard much of it before" and Labour had done "sweet nothing" since 1997.

Groups representing the disabled welcomed the greater support on offer but expressed concern that a two-tier system might emerge. Lorna Reith, chief executive of the Disability Alliance, said: "The successful 'pathways to work' pilots have shown that disabled people are keen to return to work and can do so if the right help is available."

Mind, the mental health charity, warned that the reforms might force people with mental health problems back to work too soon.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea