New job vacancies ‘filled by migrant workers’ claims former minister

June 30, 2009 at 12:47 pm Leave a comment

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by Peter Taberner

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Yvette Cooper has restated the government’s commitment to reducing the number of incapacity benefit claimants.

Ms Cooper was speaking yesterday during Work and Pension questions.

Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, asked about the assessments process to move economically inactive claimants into work.

“The Department is continuing to help people from incapacity benefit and income support back into the labour market and jobs,” Ms Cooper said.

“Despite the recession, and although unemployment has risen, the number of people on inactive benefits has not risen over the last year, which is in contrast to what happened during the recessions in the early ’80s and early ’90s.

“My hon. Friend is right that huge problems can be created for the families of those on incapacity benefit and those left out of the labour market for a long time, even though they may be able to come back into work.

“He will also know that after the numbers on sickness benefit rose for more than 20 years, they have, in fact, been falling since 2003.

“I think that some of the measures in the Welfare Reform Bill will help prepare people for work in the future as well as helping those who can get back into work do so in the short term.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary also lauded the minimum wage and tax credits in providing the incentive to move off benefits and into work and will continue to take advice from the Low Pay Commission.

Former Minister for Welfare Reform Frank Field MP for Birkenhead asked whether local employment offices would be given greater freedom as to tailor work training to local economies.

He said that the number of claimants has fallen by just 400,000, while there are 3 million new jobs have been made available, and often the positions have been filled by migrant workers.

“As my right hon. Friend will know, we are introducing the flexible new deal, which will provide more flexible and personalised support,” Ms Cooper said.

“We are also seeking, both though the Welfare Reform Bill and through pilot programmes, to introduce more flexibility, focusing on individuals’ personal problems and the reasons why they may not be able to return to the labour market.

“I hope that he will recognise that important progress has been made to reverse what was an inexorable rise in the number of people on sickness benefits, and that there have been no increases although the labour market is under considerable pressure as a result of the recession.”

She also denied claims from Forest Dean Conservative MP Mark Harper, that the number of benefit claimants over the last year had increased and criticised the Tories’ lack of support for £5 billion of investment to assist the unemployed to get back into work during the recession.

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