James Purnell defends welfare reform after accusations of ‘stigmatising’ benefits claimants

James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has defended the Government’s plans for welfare reform after a senior Labour Party figure accused him of “stigmatising” benefits claimants.

Mr Purnell said it was right to penalise people who do not try to get wor Photo: EDDIE MULHOLLAND

Mr Purnell will publish a White Paper setting out plans to make “virtually everyone” on welfare seek work or face cuts in their benefits payments.

Mr Purnell told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme the new rules will create “a system where virtually everyone has to do something in return for their benefits.”

He said it was right to “penalise” people who do not try to get work. He said: “If there is work there for people, we believe they should do it. We can’t afford to waste taxpayers’ money on people who are playing the system.”

Rhodri Morgan, the Labour First Minister of Wales, expressed doubts about Mr Purnell’s plans and accused his London colleague of treating claimants unfairly.

Mr Morgan told BBC Wales: “Where we differ is on the rhetoric, you know, the implication that people who don’t have jobs and who are on sickness benefit or incapacity benefit are in some way to be tagged or stigmatised as scroungers, and an implication that various bits of compulsion can be used.”

Mr Purnell insisted that putting conditions on welfare payments was an idea that Labour leaders have supported for more than a century. The reforms are “absolutely in keeping with our core values,” he said.

He added: “Work is good for people. Leaving people on benefits is the cruel thing to do.”

Mr Purnell’s so-called crackdown is designed for the first time to cover unemployed couples as well as lone parents.

At present, around 350,000 couples receive benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support, and can choose for themselves which partner submits the claim.

The other partner is currently spared any requirement to seek work, even if they are fully capable of finding employment.

More than 400,000 children live in a home where no one works, and ministers say that it is only “fair” to extend the recent shake-up of the benefits paid to lone parents to cover couples as well.

In future couples will be made to submit a joint claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Those with children aged seven or more will have to prove that they are actively seeking work, while parents of younger children will be categorised in the progression to work group once they reach the age of one.

Despite the Labour worries about the reform plan, doubts have emerged about just how tough the new rules will be.

The new regime will introduce a system where virtually everyone will be expected to do something in return for their benefits, with people put into the “progression to work group” being asked to show that they are taking active steps to return to the workforce.

The group will include parents with children between the ages of one and seven,

Insiders have confirmed that such parents could qualify for benefits under the new rules merely by updating their CV or looking up the number of a local baby-sitter.

The Telegraph

Comments
  • Purnell is a Blue Labour prick.

  • Bill Kruse on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 6:18 am

    This is the failed loan-shark who wanted to monetise everyone on benefits by forcing them into loans at 30%. This guy’s got a history of being competent and experienced at precisely nothing. Why is he paid any attention to by the media? He’s a complete non-entity. Who cares what he thinks? Why is it reported? Can he back his suggestions with any kind of argument? I’ve seen nothing to suggest that’s ever been the case.

  • He also wanted to charge pensioners the same amount… his plans were blocked by Gordon Brown.

    Aside friom being a complete bastard, he is also a complete arsehole… he claimed £247 in expenses for 3,000 fridge magnets.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Purnell .

  • Peter Lockhart on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 9:02 am

    This could have been written with him in mind (except it was before his time.) The man is a bawheid an utter and complete fud

  • Bill Kruse on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Bear in mind that the government, while overtly condemning the unemployed, are actively seeking to bring in armies of cheap labour from abroad with the specific intention of putting British workers out of jobs http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2011/09/01/comment-the-secret-immigration-policy-they-tr

  • Bill Kruse on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Why isn’t this all over the papers and the tv news instead of endless crticism of unemployed people?

  • Elysabeth Mccaig-scott on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

    there are no jobs, people are geniunely ill, parents need to CARE for their children, would he do the crappy nil protection of hours temp contract work on min wage? Good work is good for you. Purnell is a bully and totally out of touch of the reality of life. Wonder how much Unum are paying him for this or the directorship that he steps into once he stops being a fraud of an MP?

  • Joe Kane on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “The new regime will introduce a system where virtually everyone will be expected to do something in return for their benefits, with people put into the “progression to work group” being asked to show that they are taking active steps to return to the workforce.”
    – How appropriate those forced to undertake meaningless activity which adds nothing to the economy are referred to as living under a “regime”. I couldn’t put it better.

    Stalinist forced labour camps added nothing to the economy of the USSR and actually cost the state money to run. Much like our own organ of state which deals with the labour market and is being mis-used by neoliberal politicians to carry out massive social engineering projects which Stalin would be proud to put his name to.

    The British state’s neoliberal forced labour camp, patrolled by a growing police state bureaucracy, has re-invented nuanced categories for just about every type of impoverishment that requires people to ask the state for assistance until they get back on their feet. It’s like something out of the novels written by Tsarist-Stalinist writers who satirised the labyrinthine workings of the Russian-USSR state.

    Or if you prefer Dante, we are all assigned our own individual circle of hell by the British state bureaucracy which is controlled by a political system ostentatiously lording its power over its captive British population, showing off how powerful it is and how it has defeated all opposition to its neoliberal project.

    These people in political power are out of control.

  • Elysabeth Mccaig-scott on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Damn right Joe Kane, with the appeals and constant assessments i’ve said to people it’s like being a pawn character in a Kafka’s novel where nothing you can do can get you out of the trap.

  • Joe Kane on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Absolutely Elysabeth.

    Our only hope, if we don’t have any of the ailments which the DWP has decided automatically trigger entitlement to welfare benefit, is that we need to turn ourselves into the equivalent of Philadelphia tax lawyers. We need to get reading up on how the Kafkaesque-Orwellian state welfare system works, so that we know how to navigate around inside it with safety. We need to do this for ourselves because we are told nothing by the state about what our rights are and what we are entitle to.

    In fact, the government is more pro-active in slandering and demonising the unemployed, sick and disabled – and is far more active in disseminating information about how tough they are on the poor and the needy, and what kinds of pain and punishment they are going to inflict on welfare recipients if they dare break rules.

    The rules themselves are labyrinthine and convoluted and which seem to change from day to day, on arbitrarily on the whims of some politician in power, and of which, those to whom they apply are largely ignorant of and have no idea how the system works or why.

    Using the British state as an instrument for sadistic enjoyment seems to be a growth industry in government. It’s hapless victims are constantly asked the same questions, have to fill in the same questionaires, provide the same paperwork and face arbitrary labour camp-type inspections by Atos. Any slip-up receives instant and automatic punishments, or the exchange of one circle of hell for another as sick and disabled are forced to endure a stressful and sickening appeals procedure. Only for it to begin all over again.

    Sorry for going on Elysabeth.

  • Elysabeth Mccaig-scott on Facebook September 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Please don’t be sorry- you write well and i enjoy reading your well reasoned and truthfull novellas 🙂 i’m the one who goes ranting and swears! Whenever i’m in polite company and want to swear, i’m going to now use Purnell as the C-word as that’s what the twat is.

  • DeusExMacintosh September 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

    That was back in 2008 when Purnell was in charge so not really relevant to his new proposals from the relative safety of opposition.

    One of the problems with the system, Joe, is that there ARE no longer any health conditions that “automatically passport” you to welfare. The DWP have repeatedly said they want every single person in front of an ATOS assessor on the supposition that there’s a massive undetected rump of fraud out there. Unfortunately for us, what’s mostly out there is a large group of sick people who don’t document themselves or their conditions very well, which is an entirely different thing.

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