We won’t say much more about the Tory welfare reform package as here on incapacity benefit and here on the Jobseekers’ Allowance we have already said quite a bit but a few headlines from this morning’s Brixton press conference…
The Tory leader said that there were plenty of jobs available in Britain. He pointed to vacancy rates and the inflow of foreign labour as proof of his statement.
Because the Tory approach was based on successful models from around the world this was why, he said, that it was "change you could believe in" – quoting Barack Obama.
Mr Cameron concluded his remarks by inviting Gordon Brown to take up the Tory proposals and he promised to work with the Prime Minister in implementing them should he choose to do so.
Chris Grayling then highlighted the four reasons why the Tory programme was much superior to Labour’s existing approach:
- SCALE: All 2.6 million incapacity benefit claimants would be assessed, for example, whereas Labour was only assessing new claimants.
- SANCTIONS: There would be loss of benefits for repeatedly declining job opportunities or for a two year period of worklessness.
- MANDATORY WORK ELEMENT: For all JSA claimants who had been claiming for two years.
- FINANCIAL CHANGES: Savings from reduced benefit claims would immediately be channeled into funding successful back-to-work programmes. The private and voluntary sector operators of back to work schemes would only be paid in installments and those installments would be subject to the previously unemployed remaining in work.
During questions ConservativeHome raised the issue highlighted by Dr Rachel Joyce in one of the weekend threads. Rachel had written:
"As regards incapacity benefit – the regular medical checks need to be performed by independent doctors. GPs will tell you that they find it very difficult to say no to patients when they ask for sick notes – because of their doctor-patient relationship."
Chris Grayling confirmed that the medical examination would be independent although a GP’s opinion would be available to the assessor.
Interestingly the questions from the press were largely of the ‘is this tough enough?’ variety. Perhaps the mood has shifted in Britain and there is a real appetite for reform.
Before the press conference David Cameron spoke to participants in GAIN, a Tomorrow’s People project that you can read about here. In the New Year’s Honours Debbie Scott of Tomorrow’s People received an OBE. Few people are more deserving of an honour.