Sickness benefit overhaul: what the radical reforms will mean

Iain Duncan Smith's plan to encourage more people into work has already angered disability campaigners

Iain Duncan Smith
(Image credit: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of people could be forced into work under government plans to overhaul sickness benefit assessments.

Iain Duncan Smith is expected to announce the radical reforms today as part of the latest push to get more people off welfare and into employment.

The Work and Pensions Secretary will criticise the current "simplistic" assessment system which is "parking" people into a life on benefits.

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"It is a system that decides that you are either capable of work or you are not. Two absolutes equating to one perverse incentive – a person has to be incapable of all work or available for all work," he will say. "Surely, this needs to change."

Acknowledging the gap between the employment rate of disabled and non-disabled people, Duncan Smith said he wanted to ensure everyone had the opportunity "to transform their lives for the better by getting into work."

He will propose creating a system that focuses on the work a claimant can do and the support they will need to achieve that – not on what they are unable to do. His aides told The Times that the shake-up would allow for a "more flexible, targeted and personalised approach".

But opposition ministers and disability campaigners warn that the reforms are ill thought-out and dangerous. "Given IDS's appalling track record, this is of real concern," Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, a member of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, told the Daily Mirror. "I wouldn't trust anything the man said."

Disability rights campaigners claim that disabled people are bearing the brunt of the ongoing welfare cuts. They have called on the government to do more to normalise perceptions of disabled people at work instead of treating the situation as "a problem that needs to be explained away to employers," The Guardian says.

The announcement comes just days after the Department for Work and Pensions admitted that it had made up 'happy' benefit claimant case studies. It also comes ahead of the long-awaited publication of official statistics that will reveal how many people have died after being declared "fit-to-work".

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