To disguise the radical nature of reform, one need only make it boring. And here Chris Grayling has succeeded spectacularly. Today he has announced further details on the ‘Work Programme’ and the ‘Benefit Migration’, which sound like the type of well-intentioned but doomed reforms that ministers tried over the Labour years.
The welfare state has incubated the very ‘giant evils’ it was designed to eradicate. There are, scandalously, 2.6 million on incapacity benefit right now – a category which ensures they don’t count in unemployment figures. Brown didn’t care much, but Grayling is taking this head-on. In tests on 1,700 IB claimants in Burnley and Aberdeen, it was found that 30 percent were fit for work, 40 percent genuinely incapacitated and the rest capable of some work.
When Iain Duncan Smith was recalled to run welfare reform, his revolutionary ‘universal credit’ was adopted on the condition that it was applied over a ten-year period. Grayling was
tasked with the more immediate reform. Today he began to implement the plan he devised three years ago with the Green Paper on welfare reform. It was a series of welfare-to-work reforms so radical
that they caught the public imagination. Labour copied them. However, James Purnell could never get Brown to approve his more radical plans, so the agenda has been on ice. Until now.
The ambition is staggering. Grayling is to re-assess 2.2 million claimants – that’s the equivalent of the population of Slovenia – and place them into three categories. Those ready for work will be put onto the JobSeekers’ Allowance, those genuinely not capable of work will stay as they are, and those who are capable of doing a limited amount of work will be so categorized.