29th July 2012
The move comes after the Government’s initial drive to make those on long-term sickness benefits get back into paid jobs – after being deemed fit for work – failed to push enough claimants through the new Work Programme, partly because the long-term jobless were classed as “sicker than expected”.
The man behind the Government’s back-to-work scheme told The Sunday Telegraph he would redesign the scheme so that those deemed originally too ill to join it would be made to do so.
The move, which could affect tens of thousands of benefits claimants, has already raised concerns among health experts and unions, who warn that forcing long-term claimants with a history of illness to prepare for work too early could harm their recovery.
However, the minister said Work Programme contractors were crying out for more “hard-to-help” benefits claimants, arguing that they are capable of helping more people with complex issues back to work quicker.
Official figures in May showed only 40,000 people on so-called Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were pushed towards the Work Programme in its first six months. This is about 30,000 fewer than expected.