Speaking to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, new Work and Pensions Secretary Damien Green said:
“I want to start by thanking my team of Ministers.
“In the Commons, I am delighted to be helped by Damian Hinds, Penny Mordaunt, Richard Harrington and Caroline Nokes, supported by Mark Pawsey, Peter Heaton-Jones and Steve Brine, and in the Lords by David Freud.
“Lord Freud has been at the Department for years, and knows everything. The rest of us have been there ten weeks, and know rather less. We are all grateful to him, and I am pleased to have such a dedicated and talented team.
“Every citizen of this country values the Welfare State. It is part of the British way of life.
“As Conservatives, we believe in giving someone a helping hand when they need it. This should be a hand up, not just a hand out.
“We must always be hard-headed, but we must never be hard-hearted. A Conservative Government will always offer that helping hand when it is needed.
“The Left has always believed that you measure compassion by how much you spend. Conservatives know that the real helping hand involves giving people the chance to work, to earn, to progress, and to control their own lives.
“When William Beveridge set out his blueprint for the Welfare State in the 1940s, he was clear that it should support opportunity, incentives to work and personal responsibility. At the same time there should be a safety net for those who really need it.
“I believe in these principles.
“My vision is a Welfare State that’s fit for the world of work in the 21st century. That offers work for those who can, help for those who could, and care for those who can’t. That responds to a dynamic economy, global labour, new technology, to new ways of working and new, exciting ways of doing business.
“Because for Beveridge, the world of work looked very different. It was a world where jobs were mostly done by men, almost all full time, and often for one employer over an entire working life.
“All of that has changed. We have seen the decline of the old 9 to 5, and the rise of new kinds of flexible working, self-employment, entrepreneurship.
“There has been an explosion of tech platforms that change the way we live, but also the way many of us work.
“Look at platforms like Hassle or TaskRabbit. They’ve changed what it means to be a cleaner or a handyman.
“You can now access hundreds of new customers in the palm of your hand, giving you control of your working life.
“It is important that the government keeps up with these changes. This is why we announced that we will hold an independent review into today’s economy and new employment practices.
“And it is why I believe that the Welfare State must also adapt to make sure people can enter this new world of work.
“Doing a job is for most people the best route out of poverty, but it is much more than that. Work is better for their self-esteem, their sense of worth, and their physical and mental health.
“I saw this in Trowbridge when I visited a garden centre run by the Shaw Trust, I met Katie, who has Downs Syndrome and Matthew, who has learning disabilities. They absolutely love their jobs; serving in the café, tending the plants, and helping customers.
“Projects like this, with Government and charities working together, have the power to transform the lives of those who have been dealt a tough hand.
“We have already started this journey. We are building on the record of Iain Duncan Smith, who over six years, poured his heart into welfare, as did Stephen Crabb. We should thank both of them for the work they did.
“Our approach of reforming welfare, making work pay and supporting those who need the most help has transformed this country:
“There are 2.7 million more people in work than in 2010. We have more women in work than ever before. There are fewer children growing up in households where no-one works. Nearly half a million more disabled people are in work than three years ago.
“We should be proud of that record.
“Universal Credit – which sits at the heart of our welfare reforms – makes sure that you will always be better off in work. We will continue to expand the numbers receiving this much simpler and more work-friendly benefit.
“Our Job Centres are now places of true transformation. Anyone who thinks they are still the dole office, with queues of people waiting to get some money from the person protected behind screens at the end of the lino-clad floor — the scene you see in the Full Monty while they still had their clothes on — would be pleasantly surprised by today’s Job Centres.
No screens, no queues, no sense of sullen despair.
“Instead, with Universal Credit, Work Coaches are giving individual advice to each claimant, helping them take control of their own lives. This is the sign of a Welfare State that works with the new economy.
“But to achieve this vision we need to spread the chances of work to new groups of people. To disabled people, to older workers and to those who want to work for themselves.
“For it is imperative that how we support people keeps up with the way people work now.
“There’s a lot more to do, first for aspiring entrepreneurs. That’s why I want to build on the success of our New Enterprise Allowance, which as we’ve heard, has helped Lawrence. I am going to put rocket boosters under the New Enterprise Allowance.
“We will back budding entrepreneurs earlier and for longer, giving the self-employed the right support – help with financial planning and marketing, staying with them as they build their business, giving them every chance of success.”
“Older workers too need the right support. We need to be clear about what is happening. We are not just living longer, we are able to work and earn and contribute for longer. These days, simply, we are younger for longer.
“This generation of over 50s can combine the wisdom of experience with the fitness of youth. Maybe not after three days at conference for some of us … but most of the time.
“So to make sure our older workers can make the most of the workplace, I am appointing Andy Briggs, CEO of Aviva UK and Ireland Life, to be our new Business Champion for Older Workers. He will encourage other Chief Executives to recruit older workers; explaining the advantages they bring to his own firm.
“As an economy and a society, we need the talents and experiences of older workers.
“Of course, we still need to look after the 13 million people who are receiving the State Pension.
“One of the great social advances of our era gains almost no attention. In the 1980s, 40 per cent of our pensioners lived in poverty. Today that figure is down to 14 per cent.
“An improvement which is never widely noted but which is one of the best things to have happened in Britain, giving millions of people more dignity in their old age.
“We committed in our manifesto to help older people. That means protecting pensioner benefits and uprating the State Pension by the Triple Lock, because our parents and grandparents deserve to have a secure retirement.
“Yet while much good has been done, there are still too many people trapped in the margins. Not just older workers.
“But anyone who struggles with a disability who desperately wants to work but faces barriers, prejudice and a lack of proper support.
“Let’s be honest; if you have a disability you face all sorts of barriers. They have been built up over many years, over many decades. They have become ingrained in the attitudes of employers and the prejudices of colleagues.
“We have made progress in breaking down old legal barriers and creating new legal protections for disabled people. Let’s never forget that the first Disability Discrimination Act was introduced in the 1990s under John Major’s Government by an up-and-coming young Minister called William Hague.
“But, now, in most cases, we need to tackle attitudes, not laws … These outdated attitudes about disability and disabled people have endured for far too long.
“I am determined that we can help break down the barriers disabled people still face.
“Everyone has been inspired by our amazing Paralympic athletes this summer. 64 golds, 39 silver and 44 bronze medals. A celebration of what people can do.
“During the summer, we heard the stories of those who have overcome incredible obstacles, horrible life-changing events to compete on a global stage. Let’s thank them for an incredible spectacle. Thank them for making our country proud.
“But why should we limit this kind of celebration of disabled people to once every four years?
“I want us to be ambitious for and inspired by the millions of people across the country who have similar disabilities, but who need the opportunity to fulfil their dream. People like Molly.
“The fact is, seven million people of working age have a disability in this country. That’s seven million people who’ve been given a more difficult path than most of us.
“And as our Paralympic athletes prove, they are not to be written off. Most people do want to work but far too many are denied that opportunity.
“I am committed to helping disabled people. We will soon publish a Green Paper together with the Department of Health, setting out a range of policy ideas to help them show what they can do.
“And we are launching a competition for small businesses to find new, innovative ways to help anyone diagnosed with a health condition to stay in work.
“So I say this to anyone who wants to work: We stand with you, we will support you and will help you realise your dreams … to help you be the best you can be, to reach for that personal best, and to achieve whatever goals you aim for.
“I will work tirelessly to give disabled people better life chances. It is the right thing to do.”
“However, there will still be some who cannot work. It is our duty to support them properly. In particular, we should sweep away unnecessary stress and bureaucracy which weigh them down.
“If someone has a disease which can only get worse making them turn up for repeated appointments to claim what they need is pointless bureaucratic nonsense.
“That’s why I have announced that we will stop requiring people with the most severe, lifetime conditions to be assessed again and again for their out-of-work benefits. If their condition is not going to improve, it is not right to ask them to be tested time after time. So we will stop it.”
“To make this a country that works for everyone we need a Welfare State that works. That helps each individual contribute what they can, and receive what they need. That allows people to develop their skills in the new world of work, and does not trap them on benefits. That gives better chances to those people who travel a more difficult road.
“None of this is easy. All of this is necessary if we want a society and a country we can be proud of.
“No Conservative Government has ever backed down from a tough but important job. You would expect a Government led by Theresa May to take the challenge head on.
“We will do that, and, with your support, we will succeed.”
Responding to the Damien Green’s conference, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams MP, said:
“The Tory Government is finally responding to the misery that their discredited Work Capability Assessment has caused, following my announcement last week that Labour would scrap it.
“But Damian Green’s plans are too little, too late. While Mr Green tinkers at the edges, the Department for Work and Pensions continues to function on shame, stigma and sanctions.
“I am determined to clean up the mess of this Tory Government, Labour will introduce a new holistic, person-centred approach, transforming our social security system to one that works for us all.”