Welfare reform plan to get thousands to work

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Indy Politics

The Tories today gave their backing to Government plans to raise the employment rate to 80% by getting thousands of people off benefits and into work.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Chris Grayling promised Opposition support if Labour backbenchers threatened to rebel over the proposals.

His offer came just moments after Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell unveiled a wide-ranging package to "make sure a life on benefits is not an option".

Mr Purnell said one of the goals was to end the idea there is a choice between claiming benefit and work.

"Instead, the longer people claim, the more we will expect in return. At three months and six months, claimants will intensify their job search and have to comply with a back to work action plan."

Everyone currently claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) will also be transferred to a new system of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) between 2010 and 2013 - with the aim of assessing "what people can do, not what they can't".

Mr Grayling said much of what had been announced was "lifted" from the Tories' own plans announced in January.

Welcoming the Government's "Pauline conversion," he said: "Since these are Conservative proposals we will certainly support them.

"I know you will have some difficulties getting them through your own party. Can I assure you we will help you get them through this House even if you have a backbench rebellion to contend with."