Stephen Williams MP - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen Williams MP calls for tailored approach to welfare reform

4.38.36pm GMT Tue 24th Jan 2006

Representation of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Logo

Stephen Williams MP welcomed the Government's commitment to reduce the number of people on incapacity benefit as new welfare reform proposals were announced today.

He also revealed that in Bristol West constituency there are:

• 3,800 people in receipt of incapacity benefit

• This represents an decrease of just 3% since Labour came to power

• All but 300 have been claiming for at least 2 years

• 2,000 of these claimants have mental or behavioural disorders, and account for 53% of all cases

• There has been an increase of 5% in the number of people with mental or behavioural disorders on IB since Labour came to power

Stephen Williams MP said:

"Within a year of coming to power, Labour published a Welfare Reform Green Paper, talked about tackling the rising number of people on incapacity benefit and helping the million claimants who said they wanted to work.

"Eight years on we are in exactly the same position. Despite these eight years of failure, the Government are right to go back and look again at tackling a system which is a scandalous waste of human potential and which has condemned a million people who want to work to a lifetime on benefits.

"The strategy set out by the Government today is welcome, but it will not be easy to deliver.

"I will be looking at the proposals in detail in order to make sure that the 3,800 incapacity benefit claimants in Bristol West are given good quality support, individually tailored to meet their needs. I will also be looking to make sure that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent vulnerable people from being sanctioned because the system is not sophisticated enough to deal with complex conditions.

"There must also be more support to help people retain their jobs when they become ill; more support for employers to take on disabled staff; greater use of voluntary sector expertise; and enough flexibility within the proposed new benefits so that those with fluctuating conditions are not penalised.

"Finally, the increasing incidence of mental health problems requires special attention. The grim statistics show that if you are on the benefit for more than two years, you are more likely to die or retire than return to work. In Bristol West it seems that not only is there an increasing proportion with mental health problems on benefit but 70% of them have been on the benefit for over 2 years."

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