A future Labour government would introduce a new ‘Work Support Programme’ for unemployed disabled people, in a bid to reduce the number of people claiming sickness benefits.
Analysis of figures uncovered as part of an investigation into government spending reveals that the coalition has overspent on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by around £8 billion, claim Labour.
This comes at the same time as figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that the number of people claiming ESA has risen by 50,000 in just six months.
Labour say this is due to the ‘failure’ of the controversial Work Programme, dubbed ‘workfare’ by its opponents, in helping sick and disabled people into work. Only around one in twenty ESA claimants who participate in the scheme find secure and lasting jobs, while the overwhelming majority find themselves back at the jobcentre and trapped on benefits.
Labour would ‘improve the employability’ of sick and disabled unemployed people, says the shadow minister for disabled people Kate Green MP, through the introduction of a specialist programme designed to support them into work.
The ‘Work Support Programme’ would help support ESA claimants regarded as being the ‘furthest from work’, say Labour.
The programme would also utilise ‘existing resources’ from underperforming government schemes, such as the Work Programme and Work Choice, and then make use of those ‘resources’ to reform the discredited Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Labour say they want to ensure that the WCA ‘provides a gateway to back-to-work’ support, rather than a barrier.
The majority of sick and disabled openly say they would welcome the opportunity to work, if they are able to, but many claim that employers discriminate against them in favour of healthier, more abled-bodied job seekers.
Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow minister for Disabled People, said:
“Thousands of disabled people who want to work are being failed by the Tories. The Work Programme isn’t working for disabled people, with just one in 20 finding jobs, while this Tory-led Government slashes specialist support in job centres.
“The Tories’ failure to help disabled people into work comes at a huge cost to disabled people in every corner of the country who are being let down and to taxpayers who are facing an £8 billion bill.
“We must bring down social security spending and doing that requires a new approach to tackle the root causes of these costs directly. That’s why Labour will give disabled people the support they need to find a job.
“Our Work Support programme will bring hope to thousands of disabled people who have been let down by David Cameron’s government.”
No further details were available at the time of publication.