The 14 Words

Monday, 30 September 2013

Minister looking at making it harder for sick and disabled to claim benefits

Iain Duncan Smith told he would not legally be able to introduce secondary legislation to make changes, DWP documents show

Iain Duncan Smith is examining how to make it harder for sick and disabled people to claim benefits, according to leaked documents from the Department of Work and Pensions.

The documents show civil servants advised the work and pensions secretary that he would not legally be able to introduce secondary legislation – which does not need a parliamentary vote – in order to give jobcentre staff more powers to make employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants undergo further tasks to prove they are trying as hard as possible to get back into work.

The powers being discussed in the seven pages of official guidance – addressed to Duncan Smith – also include forcing sick and disabled people to take up offers of work. If those with serious but time-limited health conditions refuse the offer, DWP staff would then have the power to strip them of their benefits.

The revelation comes as the DWP told the Guardian it had indefinitely postponed a week-long staff "celebration" of a new, tougher sanctions regime for more than a million job seekers.

In a separate memo also leaked to the Guardian, staff and organisations involved in delivering the failing Work Programme, were due to start "conditionality week" on Monday. The event, according to the memo , is 
"about celebrating how far we have come since new tougher sanction levels were introduced last year ... and about helping us smooth the way for universal credit, working better together and making sure we apply the rules consistently and fairly".
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS union, which represents thousands of DWP staff, said: 
"It is distasteful in the extreme and grossly offensive that the DWP would even consider talking about celebrating cutting people's benefits."


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