Labour pledge on repeat work assessments for ill or disabled

Labour has vowed to make “better use” of existing resources as the party pledged to end repeat work capability assessments for those who are disabled or ill.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth also insisted that “conditionality” would continue to be part of the benefits and social welfare system under a Labour Government, as he delivered a speech that set out measures aimed at making it easier for people out of work on sickness benefits to return to the workplace.

In a speech at the Centre for Social Justice, the think tank founded by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the Labour frontbencher said that many people with ill health simply do not want to risk having to go through the whole benefits application and assessment process again if things go wrong.

“Let’s take away that fear and distrust which prevent so many from engaging with employment support and attempting a move into work,” he said.

“A Labour government would guarantee that people in this position who do move into employment with the help of employment support will be able to return to the benefits they were on without the need for another lengthy assessment process.”

Mr Ashworth said that anyone who cannot work deserves “security with inclusion not fear or threats”, as he stressed that conditions would still be attached to the benefits system under Labour.

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He denied any suggestion that his proposal would simply allow those who dislike a certain job to easily move back on to benefits, as he said it was about “de-risking” the return to work for those who are ill or disabled.

“This is about a particular group of people who are out of work for reasons of ill-health or disability, who have been through a quite stressful, arduous process – the work capability assessment. And once they have been through that process, they are worried about going through it again,” he told reporters.

“We want to de-risk the journey into work for them.”

Mr Ashworth did not give a timeframe for reform of Universal Credit, if Labour enters office.

But he stressed that the “conditionality” part of the welfare system had been part of the British social security system since the landmark Beveridge report in 1942.

“There will be a conditionality regime within the benefits system. There always has been.”

Jobs survey
Labour’s plan will see reform of employment support, devolved to local areas, Mr Ashworth said (Philip Toscano/PA)

“It should not be surprising that there will be conditionality. There will be rights and responsibilities running through the heart of social security.”

Labour’s plan will also see further reform of employment support, devolved to local areas, and targeted help for the over-50s.

Mr Ashworth said Labour’s offering would create “genuine tailored help” for those out of work, hitting out at the “bewildering spaghetti junction of a fragmented system of different nationally imposed schemes with duplication and confusion”.

“Ministers sit in Whitehall imposing different programme after programme on local areas – regardless of the local economic needs of a community,” he said.

“We’ll shift resources to local communities, not just for people who are temporarily or long-term unemployed but also for people with more complex barriers as well.”