The DWP secretary says benefits should not be a route out of poverty
Disabled people should have to work their way out poverty and not simply be taken out of it by state financial assistance, Iain Duncan Smith has said.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said it was not the role of government to pay the disabled enough to stop them being poor and that the correct way to escape poverty was by working.
“We don’t think of people not in work as victims to be sustained on government handouts. No, we want to help them live lives independent of the state,” he told the annual Conservative party conference in Manchester.
“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”
Mr Duncan Smith argued that many sick and disabled people wanted to work and that the Government should give them support to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs.
The Work and Pensions Secretary criticised what he dubbed Labour’s “something for nothing culture”, and also dismissed protests against his policies, which his party’s conference has been subject to.
In his wide-ranging speech, Mr Duncan Smith also criticised the old Employment Support Allowance benefit for signing people off work when they were judged by doctors as too sick to work.
“The ESA has Labour’s essential mistake at its heart – that people are passive victims. Of course if you treat people as passive that’s what they’ll become,” he said.
“It’s no wonder, when the system makes doctors ask a simplistic question: are you too sick to work at all? If the answer is yes, they’re signed off work – perhaps for ever.”
The disability charity Scope said it agreed that disabled people needed better help to get into work, but warned that cutting financial support would actually undermine this goal.
“The Secretary of State is right to say that many disabled people can, and want to, work. If we are going to halve the disability employment gap, we need to remove the barriers disabled people still face when finding, staying in and progressing in work,” said Mark Atkinson, the organisation’s interim chief executive.
“However, we are deeply concerned that lowering the financial support unemployed disabled people receive, will push people further from the workplace. Those in the Work Related Activity Group who receive Employment Support Allowance are disabled people who’ve been independently assessed as being unfit for work. It is not a passive benefit. Everyone in the Group must take steps towards finding work.”