Conservative Diary


27 Jul 2011 12:57:20

Tests by the Department for Work and Pensions find many claiming sickness benefits are fit to work

By Matthew Barrett
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Iain Duncan Smith's Department for Work and Pensions has released figures today showing claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) - which is to replace Incapacity Benefit - are, in many cases, fit to work.

The new ESA benefit requires a test to see if claimants are able to undertake work. Figures from the Department showed that of those who took the test, 75% could work. More detailed figures show:

  • One in 14 applicants is unable to do any work in the long-term
  • 39% were “fit for work” and moved on to job-seekers’ allowance
  • 17% were awarded ESA but classified as able to work in the longer-term
  • 7% were deemed incapable of any work
  • However, 36% of claims were closed before the assessment stage and 1% are still in progress

Continue reading "Tests by the Department for Work and Pensions find many claiming sickness benefits are fit to work" »

16 Mar 2011 10:11:43

Employment minister Chris Grayling welcomes drop in those claiming Job Seeker's Allowance but admits "real concern" over new unemployment figures

By Jonathan Isaby

Chris Grayling 2010 Unemployment figures for the three months to January were released at 9.30am and media are already concentrating on the headline figure of 2.53 million being a 17-year high, with the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work increasing to 974,000, the highest since records began in 1992.

However, the total claiming Jobseeker's Allowance fell by 10,200 to 1.45 million, the biggest reduction since last June, and the total number of people in work increased by 32,000 to 29.16 million, the highest figure since last autumn - and one driven entirely by an increase in jobs in the private sector.

Other statistics worth noting include:

  • The number of over-65s in work increased by 56,000 in the latest quarter to reach 900,000, the highest since records began in 1992;
  • There was also a record number of 50 to 64-year-olds in work - up by 25,000 to 7.3 million;
  • There were almost half a million job vacancies in the three months to February, up by 24,000 over the previous quarter.

Employment minister Chris Grayling responded to the latest numbers thus:

"There is good news and bad news in these figures. There's been a welcome drop in the number of people on benefits, and the increase in full-time private sector jobs is a step in the right direction.

"But the rise in overall unemployment is a real concern and underlines the need to press ahead with policies which will further stimulate growth in the private sector. For those on benefits that are now looking to make the transition into the workplace our new Work Programme will provide tailored support to get them into jobs."

Foreign affairs issues aside, this would seem a likely topic for Ed Miliband to raise at today's PMQs.

9 Apr 2010 11:05:13

Theresa May announces plan for a crackdown on benefits fraudsters

Theresa May On the day that a Conservative analysis shows that benefit fraud and error has cost the country £80 a second under Labour, the Conservatives are pledging today to introduce tougher measures against those who abuse the benefits system.

Whereas the Labour Government only penalises fraudulent claimants for up to a maximum of thirteen weeks, a Conservative Government would remove the right to claim out-of-work benefits from those who repeatedly defraud the system for up to three years.

It will work on the basis of a "three strikes" policy:

  • First-time benefit fraudster will lose their out-of-work benefits for three months
  • Second-time offenders will lose the benefits for six months
  • The sanction of losing the benefits for up to three years will kick in on someone committing benefit fraud for a third time.

(Existing mechanisms for appeal will apply, whilst vulnerable claimants – such as those with children - will receive a cut to their benefits rather than a total loss of entitlement.)

This is all in addition to the existing stated policies that those on out-of-work benefits who refuse three reasonable offers of work will face losing their benefits for up to three years; and that those who don’t turn up to an employment programme or training place will stop receiving out-of-work benefits until they do.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Theresa May, commended today's robust new position, saying it was all about fairness:

“For too long Labour have let benefit cheats play the system, costing the taxpayer millions. It is astounding that since 1997 welfare waste has cost the public £80 every second. We want to send out a strong message to people who fleece the taxpayer - you could lose your out of work benefits for three years. This is about fairness. While the whole country is tightening its belt it’s scandalous that thousands are managing to defraud the taxpayer out of billions.”

Jonathan Isaby

3 Oct 2009 21:43:59

David Cameron signals intent to tackle the "jobs crisis" by "Getting Britain Working"

Scroll down for Sunday afternoon update!

David Cameron has written for both the Sunday Telegraph and News of the World tomorrow about how he would deal with unemployment.

The Tory leader's article is not yet on the Telegraph website, but elsewhere the paper reports:

"In a key sign that the Tories are ready to campaign on jobs and unemployment – seen as traditional Labour territory – the Tory leader says he will scrap the government's flagship New Deal, a costly programme dependent on state intervention which aims to bring down youth unemployment.

"Instead the Conservatives will this week unveil a new plan, called "Get Britain Working" – which will see sweeping changes to policy across whole swathes of Whitehall in an attempt to "unleash investment and entrepreneurial activity that helps create more jobs".

"Mr Cameron's article puts wholesale reform of Britain's welfare system at heart of his drive for jobs – masterminded by Lord (David) Freud, the welfare expert who "defected" from advising the government to become a Tory shadow minister earlier this year."

Meanwhile, writing in the News of the World, Mr Cameron writes about his desire to tackle what he calls "Labour’s jobs crisis":

"This year, unemployment rose at the fastest rate on record. One in five young people are out of work. And even before the recession almost five million people were claiming out-of-work benefits. It is vital that we get to grips with this problem. It’s not just that it comes with a price-tag of tens of billions a year.It’s that mass unemployment can lead to massive social problems — like family breakdown and crime — and that affects us all. A crisis of this scale, that runs so deep, cannot be solved with one policy or programme alone. It means ripping up the old way of doing things and bringing radical change across the whole of our economy."

Sunday 2pm update:

The party has now release details of what is calling The Work Programme, which is encapsulated as follows:

  • Simplifying Labour’s numerous and piecemeal programmes into one single back-to-work programme for everyone on out of work benefits;
  • Including support back into work for the 2.6 million people claiming Incapacity Benefits currently excluded by Labour;
  • Abolishing the Treasury’s rule that prevents the Government paying work providers using the benefits saved once someone has a job, which will allow support to be offered tothe 2.6 million people on Incapacity Benefit;
  • Offering greater support to the young unemployed by referring them on to the Work Programme after 6 months of unemployment compared to a year under the Flexible New Deal;
  • Paying providers by results with a focus on truly sustainable outcomes and bigger rewards for getting the hardest to help into a job.

Continue reading "David Cameron signals intent to tackle the "jobs crisis" by "Getting Britain Working"" »

26 Aug 2009 08:48:13

Theresa May exposes how five million people have not worked under Labour

Picture 3 Theresa May is the latest member of the shadow cabinet to merit mention on our rolling blog of the biggest summer media hits, with her exposure today of the true scale of joblessness under Labour.

As the splash in today's Daily Express reports, the shadow work and pensions secretary has analysed official figures and calculated that five million people have not worked since Labour came to power, of whom two million have never worked at all.

Mrs May will be giving a speech to Policy Exchange tomorrow in which she will accuse the Labour Government of having created "a wall between the working and the workless" to hide its failure to provide opportunities for the long-term unemployed:

"These are people that have been hidden away by Labour for the past ten years. They have slowly built a wall between the working and the workless, hoping to keep their failures out of sight. Well let me spell them out. The reality is that under Labour there has been a steady  growth in welfare ghettos - unemployment did not disappear during the 'boom years'.  It was merely disguised, renamed, and hidden away in ever growing pockets of poverty. And there are stark figures to back this up: the latest census data shows 2 million people in this country have never had a job. Almost 3 million people have not worked under this Labour Government.

"It is important to remember that not everyone can work, those with severe disabilities or those who do an invaluable job as full time carers or parents of young children. But at the same time we should not shy away from demanding more of those who can work, and often desperately want to... Many of those covered in these statistics will not appear in the unemployment figures at all. No doubt the figures will cover some of the 800,000 people who have been on Incapacity Benefits for over ten years. They will include Lone Parents which the state has told not to bother trying to work until their youngest child was sixteen.  They will include some of the record numbers of NEETs who often don't appear in the benefit figures at all."

This is the latest issue to be taken on by the front bench as part of what is being informally referred to as "Broken Britain week" after Chris Grayling's speech about social breakdown yesterday (covered here and here on ConHome).

Policy Exchange published a report of its own last week about the true scale of unemployment in this country, which we covered here.

Jonathan Isaby

18 Aug 2009 09:03:12

Policy Exchange reveals the real scale of joblessness to be verging on six million

11.15am update: Just this morning the latest figures for the number of 18-24 year olds Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) have been released, which have hit a record high of 835,000, equivalent to 17.6% of that age bracket.

Shadow Universities and Skills Secretary, David Willetts, commented: 

"More than one in six young people are now without a job or a place in education or training. Ministers have comprehensively failed to get a grip on this crisis. Young people don't need more empty promises or celebrity gimmicks. They need more apprenticeship opportunities, more postgraduate places and better careers advice.”


Picture 4Policy Exchange scores a good media hit with the splash in today's Daily Express, coupled with coverage elsewhere in the papers, as it reveals the  true scale of unemployment across the country.

A new report by the think-tank puts the actual number of Britons out of work and living on benefits at 5.96 million - somewhat different from the official tally of 2.44 million, according to the latest figures.

Policy Exchange calculates the figure based on the number of those of working age living off the following benefits:

  • 1.58 million on Jobseeker's Allowance
  • 2.6 million on incapacity benefit and the new Employment and Support Allowance
  • 736,000 on lone parents' benefits
  • 400,000 on carers' benefits
  • 363,000 on disability benefits
  • 182,000 on other income-related benefits 
  • 95,000 on bereavement benefits

It also reminds us that the cost of the benefits system has risen from £93 billion in 1997 to £193 billion today, all of which will present a considerable challenge for an incoming Conservative Government if elected next year, as Policy Exchange's director Neil O'Brien explains:

Continue reading "Policy Exchange reveals the real scale of joblessness to be verging on six million" »

12 May 2009 14:26:33

Unemployment hits 2.2 million

A good day to bury bad news?

A day early, the latest unemployment figures from the ONS have been released. Unemployment rose by 244,000 to 2.22 million in the first three months of the year.

Joblessness has gone from 6.7% to 7.1% (but not to 7.1 million, as a BBC strapline just announced!).

The Government is now in dire straits and, rather more importantly, so is the country.

Tom Greeves

Update: Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May has commented:

"Today’s figures highlight how unemployment remains one of our most pressing economic and political issues.

Behind these grim statistics people’s lives have been shattered.

We still have a government that is void of ideas and void of any real vision to help people out of this grave situation.

Labour is still sleepwalking through this unemployment crisis."