DWP plans confirmed as PIP claimants could lose £737 payments

Secretary of State Mel Stride said 'our comprehensive plan ensures we have the necessary tools to tackle the scourge of benefit fraud'
Secretary of State Mel Stride -Credit:Getty Images

Thousands of unemployed individuals are set to be offered places in 'skills bootcamps' to bridge gaps in Britain's job market traditionally filled by foreign workers, according to a Government announcement. Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said those on benefits would undergo training to assume roles in key sectors experiencing staff shortages, such as hospitality, care, construction, and manufacturing.

Speaking at a jobcentre in central London, the Cabinet member declared that the UK has been overly reliant on international labour "for too long" and promised to "unleash Britain's hidden army of talent". He went on to confirm plans to change the welfare system, including a consultation on a proposed overhaul of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme that could potentially see its current £737 monthly payments stopped and replaced with therapeutic support and equipment to assist people in overcoming health issues so they can contribute to the economy.

This reemphasised commitment to reintegrating Brits into the workforce follows the Home Office's introduction of restrictions intended to curb the influx of immigrants. The measures include preventing overseas care workers from bringing family dependants, significantly raised salary entry requirements for skilled occupations to £38,700 and stricter regulations making it more difficult for Britons earning below the national average wage to sponsor foreign spouses, reports Birmingham Live.

Mr Stride said: "I know this presents a recruitment challenge for some employers in certain sectors, particularly those that have relied more on migration in the past, but this is also a huge opportunity for the thousands of jobseekers within our domestic workforce to move into roles that have previously been filled by overseas workers. I see no reason why a British worker cannot be a care worker."

The Government's new strategy involves setting up a taskforce aimed at boosting recruitment in sectors with significant shortages. This taskforce, led by Mr Stride and comprising ministers from various departments including the Home Office, Treasury, Department for Education, and Department for Business and Trade, will employ strategies similar to those used to address the HGV driver shortage, such as skills bootcamps and jobcentre training schemes.

When questioned about how these initiatives would function in reality during a media Q&A following his address, Mr Stride explained that they are "short, focused" training programmes often designed with contributions from industry experts. He said: "It is just a simple fact that if you can get somebody who's willing and incentivised to work and you give them those skills over a short period of time, you can make a real movement of the dial in terms of having people go into those areas of employment.

"My message to businesses is clear: our Jobcentre teams stand ready to help you find the right candidate, and we want to work with you to overcome recruitment challenges. And my message is also to the British people. For too long we have relied on labour from abroad when there is great talent right here in the UK I am determined to put that right."

He indicated that significant welfare reform is necessary, pointing out that PIP, the primary disability benefit, is "creaking under the weight of the profound changes we've seen in the nature of disability". The DWP is considering revisions to the eligibility and assessment process for the benefit, with the possibility that individuals with depression or anxiety might lose their entitlement to regular cash payments of up to £9,500 annually, potentially being offered therapy as an alternative.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Alison McGovern criticised the proposals, saying: "Talking shops and billboards do not even scratch the surface of what is needed to get Britain working. The Tories should be prioritising proper plans to tackle worker shortages and adopting Labour's plan to connect the immigration system to skills.

"The Tories cannot be the change from their own failings. It is Labour who have the plan to get Britain working by cutting NHS waiting lists, reforming job centres, making work pay and supporting people into good jobs across every part of the country."

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman Wendy Chamberlain said: "In many ways this is an admission that the Conservatives have no plan to tackle the biggest reason that people are unable to work, which is that NHS waiting lists are through the roof. Thousands are struggling to access the healthcare they need, meaning people are unable to go back to work.

"This Conservative Government has neglected our NHS, which is continuing to damage the country's economic recovery. We will only get the economy back fighting fit by fixing the health crisis."

Meanwhile, Unison, the public service union, slammed the Government's idea of bootcamps for the unemployed as a mere "desperate attempt to distract voters from Government care failings".

Unison's head of social care, Gavin Edwards, said: "There's nothing wrong with promoting social care as a career and offering proper training to try to attract new recruits to the crisis-stricken sector. But forcing the unemployed off benefits and into caring roles, while keeping pay rates low, simply won't work. Most people will neither want to do the jobs, nor be remotely suited to them. This latest foolish idea shows ministers are clueless about how to fix care."