Five-year Strategy

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 24th February 2005.

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Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) what impact he expects the proposals in his Department's five-year strategy to have on (a) the number of people who start claiming incapacity benefits each year and (b) the proportion of these who are still claiming incapacity benefits 12 months after the commencement of their claims;

(2) how much of the one million fall in the numbers of people on incapacity benefit targeted in his Department's five-year strategy he expects will be attributable to (a) an increase in the rate at which existing claimants leave incapacity benefits and (b) a reduction in the number of new claimants;

(3) what impact he expects the proposals in his Department's five-year strategy to have on (a) the number of people who start claiming incapacity benefits in each year and (b) the proportion of these who are still claiming incapacity benefits 12 months after the commencement of their claims;

(4) what his timetable is for progress against his objective of reducing the number of people on incapacity benefits by one million;

(5) by what date he expects the number of people on incapacity benefits to have fallen by one million if the plans outlined in his Department's five-year strategy are implemented.

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State (Work), Department for Work and Pensions

Reducing the numbers of people on incapacity benefits by one million is a long term aspiration.

This long-term aspiration is challenging. It will require continued macroeconomic stability and further radical welfare reform to build on the success that has already been achieved. New claims are already down by 30 per cent. since 1997. The caseload has peaked after decades when the numbers increased—particularly in the 1990s when the caseload trebled. And in the latest two quarters there have been the first signs of a fall.

It is not possible to put a firm timetable on this. Not only does it require legislative changes we also need to review the evidence from the successful Pathways to Work pilots and successfully roll-out the programme.

We are already making progress. The significant improvement in off-flow rates registered in the pathways to work pilots, with 5,500 job entries up to last August, also shows for the first time how significant additional numbers of people on incapacity benefits can be helped back to work.

Realisation of our aspiration will depend on further evidence from pathways (for example on the impact of work-focused interviews for existing claimants, starting this month) and other initiatives. It will also depend on when we can start to understand the additional impact of the new arrangements set out in the five year strategy. Outside of DWP it will also depend on the scale of progress on, for example, fitness for work issues and progress on employers' sickness absence management policies.

Progress towards our aspiration should come, in part, from improving support so people do not need to come onto IB, that is, reducing inflows and improving off-flows by helping more people to leave the benefit for work.

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