The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) yesterday slammed plans by new Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to force five million people off benefit and onto workfare.
The PCS said: ‘Plans by the new work and pensions secretary for further reform of welfare and benefits are doomed to fail because of the government’s plans to axe public spending.’
It added that ‘the announcement of a recruitment freeze in the civil service and plans to cut thousands of temporary staff will have a devastating impact on the department as it tries to cope with the effects of the recession.
‘With unemployment rising, the Department for Work and Pensions needs more staff not fewer’, the union said.
PCS believes the government should be reducing unemployment by creating jobs, not driving people off welfare and further into poverty.
The PCS added: ‘Duncan Smith’s plans to force more people into work through harsher sanctions, and to extend the role of the private sector in back to work schemes, will do nothing to support unemployed workers.
‘If the government wants to address barriers to work, it should tackle low pay in the workplace and the discrimination faced by workers with disabilities, especially mental health issues.’
In a speech yesterday, Duncan Smith announced a ‘radical welfare reform programme designed to tackle entrenched poverty and end the curse of intergenerational worklessness’.
Earlier he said there were 1.5 million ‘parked on incapacity benefits’ and that the ‘reforms’ will initially target the long-term unemployed and youth who will be required to take any job offered or be put off benefit.
In his speech he claimed: ‘The proportion of people parked on inactive benefits has almost tripled in the past 30 years to 41 per cent of the inactive working age population.’
He added that ‘we must not just park people on long-term benefits’.
A new Cabinet Committee is being set up, chaired by Duncan Smith with cabinet colleagues from across government, including the Treasury, Home Office, Health and Communities and Local Government, ‘to tackle the underlying causes of deep-rooted poverty in Britain’.
The Child Poverty Action Group attacked the government’s plans saying: ‘Work needs to be made worthwhile. We need to tackle low pay and benefit withdrawal rates, which will help end child poverty.
‘Benefit adequacy must be part of welfare reform agenda. Being out of work must not mean being in poverty.
‘Recent welfare reforms took more of a Big Brother approach, tightening the grip of top-down bureaucracy and sanctions instead of empowering claimants from the bottom up.’
Head of Policy, Rights and Advocacy, Imran Hussain, said: ‘We need a genuine safety net with a bounce in it, instead of trapping people in bureaucracy, sanctions and barriers to taking control of their lives.’