Category Archives: Welfare reform

Policy Network Speech in Infographics

Dear friends,

Yesterday I delivered a speech to Policy Network on entrepreneurial socialism, tackling inequality and the case for a #NewClause4. You can read the speech here.

You can also see below my speech in six infographics:


1) Britain 2015: More Super Rich. More Super Poor.



2) Firms just aren’t investing:

2 (2)

3) Workers are producing more but getting less:


4) Britain’s Knowledge Economy since 2010:


5) Let’s rewrite the rules for our economy:


6) It’s time for the Labour Party to adopt a #NewClause4 which explicitly states our purpose is to fight inequality:


Red Shift report launch at Labour Conference

Dear friends,

Yesterday, Shabana Mahmood MP, Nic Dakin MP, Cllr Caroline Badley and I launched the very first Red Shift report ‘Looking for a New England’ at Labour Party Conference.

Here are a few pictures from the launch:





In case you were not able to attend the launch or have not had a chance to read the Red Shift report yet, you can read it here.

With best wishes,



My speech to Labour Party Conference in Brighton, 23rd September 2013

Conference – It’s a privilege to open this debate, a debate we approach with a passion and care.

That’s not a sign of weakness, that’s a sign of our strength.

We are so much stronger and our policy is so much better for the work of Unison’s Liz Snape, the TUC’s Kay Carberry, for the leaders of our ten biggest councils, to those from business and the third sector who’ve worked so hard on our youth jobs taskforce.

It’s stronger for the Labour councillors all over Britain who have helped us think radically about how we revolutionise the Tories’ failing back to work system.

It’s stronger for Sir Bert Massie, a pioneer of disability rights, for his taskforce, and for the hundreds of disability activists who have helped us think radically about how we make rights a reality for disabled people.

And it’s stronger for all our brilliant PPCs, fighting in key seats, who brought together residents to tell us how they want Labour to rebuild social security and a different kind of Britain.

And what sort of party would we be if we were not passionate about the stories we hear.

Like the woman I met with MS who told me how her carer, her teenage son, had lost all his support; it’s tough she said, for a boy to lose to that help when he knows his mum won’t get better.

Or the Remploy workers on a GMB picket line, fighting for work, who said to me: this isn’t just my job; this is my life.

Or the thousands of young people, I fight for in East Birmingham, hunting for work, who speak of the hundreds of CVs they send and never even get a reply – and still they keep going.

You know, there’s a Tory minister – and I’ll let you guess where he went to school – who tells us: our young people lack grit.

Well, let me tell you this: the young people fighting for work in East Birmingham have got a damn sight more grit than you need to get through Eton College.

Good people all over Britain hear these stories too.

And right now they’re asking themselves what kind of country are we becoming?

Once upon a time the Tories told us they cared: all those speeches in Easterhouse.

And people gave them the benefit of the doubt.

We were promised a Tory party that cared about the poor.

We were promised a welfare revolution.

We were promised we’re all in this together.

Three years on I tell you the jury is in.

A cost of living crisis.

A million young people out of work.

Long term unemployment at record highs.

Disabled people living in fear.

Child poverty rising.

Living standards hammered.

A promise that started in Easterhouse has ended with the spectacle of a Tory Minister, Michael Gove, blaming the poor for the temerity to turn up at a food bank.

He should be ashamed.

Three years on, I tell you the verdict is simple:

These Tories have let their prejudice destroy their policies.

And just as bad as the prejudice is the incompetence.

They say to err is human.

But if you want someone to really screw it up you send for Iain Duncan Smith.

And Conference that’s why we need to fire him.

But let me level with you, we won’t win power with a plan to roll back the clock.

To restore the status quo.

To ignore the calls for change.

The vast majority of people in this country believe the welfare state is one of our proudest creations.

It’s a mark of a civilised society.

But the vast majority don’t believe the system works for them or for modern times.

So let’s not be the defenders of the status quo, we must be the reformers now.

Today life is very different to the days of Beveridge.

The job for life is gone.

If you’re without a skill, you’ll most likely to be without a job.

Two thirds of couples both work – yet struggle with child-care.

Millions struggle on low wages while company profits rise.

Hundreds of thousands save for decades just to buy a home.

We’re aging, and yet fewer have a pension.

Getting a job, setting up home, working as a parent, caring for another, saving for the future.

These are the challenges of the real world you can’t solve by demonising others.

These are the challenges for One Nation Social Security.

And the truth is today the system doesn’t help.

So we need to change the system.

And build a new consensus rooted in our values, our party’s values, our country’s values.

Where we listen not to our demons but to the better angels of our nature.

Were we move from a language of division to a language of respect.

Where we match the personal responsibility to work.

With the collective responsibility to care.

These are the founding principles of the system we built in 1945, and these are the principles we must restore.

And today I want to tell you how.

With the ideas we’ve hammered out in hundreds of conversations and debates all over Britain this last year.

And the cardinal principal is this, full employment first.

Full employment has always been the foundation for rebuilding Britain. It was for Atlee’s Labour, it was for New Labour, it will be for One Nation Labour.

The Tories system doesn’t work.

So we need a better way.

So let’s start with a tax on bankers bonuses’ to fund a job for every young person out of work long term.

But let’s go further.

Let’s take the ideas – like Apprenticeship Agencies, pioneered in Labour Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newham and Wales.

And use them to revolutionise the path from the classroom to the career.

But, let’s go further.

Let’s stop fighting unemployment with one hand tied behind our back.

Let’s deliver a large devolution of power from the DWP to local councils.

Let’s build a new partnership between our job centres and town halls.

Let councils shape the programmes to get people back to work.

And let’s go further; let’s set a limit on the time we’re prepared to let people languish out of work.

Let’s invest in jobs for anyone out of work for two years, but say it’s got to be a deal.

We’ll invest in new chances, but if you’re fit to work, we’ll insist you take it.

Full employment first, that’s the Labour way.

Conference, any job is better than no job. But a good job is better than a bad one.

When the welfare state was started, its big idea was to ‘minimise disruption to earnings’.

Now our task is different. It’s to ‘maximise potential of earnings’.

That why we need Universal Credit to work.

So if the government won’t act to save it, we will.

The Tories’ system may prove dead on arrival. So we need a better way.

So, today we announce our Universal Credit Rescue Committee.

And I’m grateful to Kieran Quinn, leader of Tameside, the first pathfinder, for his offer to drive our work.

But, we’ll need more.

We’ll need a campaign for the living wage because it is wrong that we are spending the nation’s tax credits propping up low pay at firms with rising profits.

The deal has got to be simple. If your workers help you do well, then you need to give them a pay rise.

We the Labour party stand as the party of work – and the party of better off in work.

But, listen, if we want a new consensus, we need to remember this: if working people are strong, then Britain is strong.

So we should help working people.

Yet, those born in the turbulent world of the 1960’s, pay so much in and get so little out.

It’s wrong and we should change it.

Those in their 50’s are the people who’ve worked most, cared most, served most. And what do they get?

I’ll tell you, nothing.

So let’s bring back an idea from Beveridge.

Extra help for those who’ve paid their dues but are desperate for extra help to work again.

After a lifetime’s working or caring, I think it’s the least we can do.

Conference it’s a modest step – but it’s a big signal.

But, there’s something more.

Like most families in this country, I know that disability can affect anyone.

Therefore it affects us all.

Yet, today disabled people are threatened by hate crime, by Atos and by the Bedroom Tax.

Today we deny disabled people peace of mind, a job, a home and care – and I tell you that is wrong.

We need to change it.

So we will change the law so hate crime against disabled people is treated like every other hate crime.

And I say to David Cameron, Atos are a disgrace, you should sack them and sack them now.

And yes Conference we say the Bedroom Tax should be axed and axed now and if David Cameron won’t drop this hated tax, then we will repeal it.

We’ll protect disabled people in Scotland and across the UK.

Conference, we need a system that delivers the right help to the right people.

So assessments have to stay.

But let’s take Andy Burnham’s idea of whole person care and ask why not bring together health, social care – and the back to work system into one comprehensive service.

That’s what Labour did in Australia.

Let’s see if we can learn from that here.

I’m delighted to announce that Jenny Macklin, a fine Labour politician and the architect of the system down under, is going to help us figure out how.

Conference, nearly 10 years ago many of you helped win a very tough by election.

For nearly a decade I’ve served the poorest constituency in Britain.

I know in power we will have difficult decisions to make.

And I passionately believe we judge our success not by the money we spend but the difference we make.

There is no moral credibility without financial viability.

That’s why we’ll cap social security spending.

But, full employment, fair pay, a return to Beveridge, rights a reality for disabled people, fair pensions not for some but for all.

These are our principles for rebuilding social security for new times.

More than 50 years ago, my hero Clement Attlee, a man with the best hair in Labour history, made his final broadcast to a war weary nation hungry to win the peace.

We call you, he said, to another great adventure, the adventure of civilisation, where all may help to create and share in an increasing material prosperity, free from the fear of want.

That’s the Labour way, that’s the Ed Miliband way, and that’s the way we’ll win.

Universal Credit now in total chaos – PAC hearing response

David Cameron’s flagship project is now in total chaos.


Parliament’s watchdog has blown apart yet another cover-up by Iain Duncan Smith who it seems has tried to hide further write-offs on his disaster-hit Universal Credit project. We’re now told there was no ministerial accountability and financial control was so weak that secretaries were signing huge purchase orders.


Iain Duncan Smith must now come to the Commons and explain why he tried to hide this from MPs last week. And he must now publish the damning report by his auditors PWC.

As usual with David Cameron’s out of touch Government they try and blame everyone but themselves. We must get to the truth ministers are trying to hide. It’s now clear ministers, not officials got this wrong.


Damning NAO report reveals Universal Credit has become Universal Chaos

Today’s NAO report reveals the extent to which Iain Duncan Smith has lost his grip on Universal Credit, in the face of years of warnings for DWP to get their multi-billion pound scheme back on track.


The damning report lays bare the chaos surrounding the government’s flagship welfare reform.


  • Throughout the programme the Department has lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work
  • 2017 roll our date now in serious doubt amidst a series of delays
  • IT systems scrapped at the cost of millions, and DWP unable to say if its new IT system will support national roll out
  • Serious concerns over vulnerability to fraud
  • A series of warnings ignored – including from the Major Project Authority
  • DWP now unlikely to deliver financial savings promised


Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pension Secretary, said:


“The truth is finally out. Universal Credit is a titanic-sized IT disaster which Iain Duncan Smith has tried to hide with cover up after cover up.


“Mr Duncan Smith swore blind this benefit shake-up was fine. Now we learn he has completely lost control of his department at a potential cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. Incredibly three years on, out of touch ministers still don’t know how things are supposed to work. It is exactly this lack of discipline that has left the social security bill spiraling up and up.


“The Conservatives welfare revolution has now finally collapsed.  It is now mission critical that David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith swallow their pride and agree to the cross party talks we proposed in the summer. We cannot risk another day.”




The report states that:


  • Throughout the programme the Department has lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work [para 18]]
  • “The Department has delayed rolling out Universal Credit nationally” and the 2017 roll out date is in serious doubt [para 2.14: The reset team in early 2013 considered different scenarios for rolling out Universal Credit, including completing migration later than October 2017. The current senior responsible owner is looking at different options for the timing of full roll-out”]
  • Wasted time and money on failed management and IT mean failure to bring down the costs of social security [2.23 In its December 2012 business case, the Department estimated that Universal Credit would generate benefits to society worth £273 million by 2014-15. The delay in national roll-out will reduce the value of these benefits;
  • The Department does not yet know to what extent its new IT systems will support national roll-out.
  • “the Department has not achieved value for money” (para 23) and has already written off £34 million in IT assets due to poor management (para 2.20). “Remedial work to make good or replace the IT assets could further increase the Department’s IT budget, which had already increased by 61 per cent (£241 million) between its May 2011 and December 2012 plans” (para 2.21)
  • There are serious concerns about fraud under the new scheme: “The Department’s current IT system lacks the ability to identify potentially fraudulent claims” (para 2.17).
  • In practice the Department did not have any adequate measures of progress. Major Projects Authority and supplier-led reviews in mid-2012 identified a ‘fortress’ mentality within the programme team and a ‘good news’ reporting culture (paragraph 3.23), Inadequate financial control over supplier spending. (paragraphs 3.24 to 3.26), Ineffective departmental oversight. The the Department has never been able to measure its progress effectively against what it is trying to achieve. (paragraphs 3.11, 3.27 and 3.38).
  • DWP repeatedly ignored warnings to get Universal Credit back on track The Department was warned repeatedly about the lack of a detailed ‘blueprint’, ‘architecture’ or ‘target operating model’ for Universal Credit. [Yet] Throughout the programme the Department has lacked a detailed view of how Universal Credit is meant to work. From mid-2012, it became increasingly clear that the Department was failing to address recommendations from assurance reviews. Although the nature and emphasis of its recommendations changed over time, the key areas of concern raised by the Major Projects Authority in February 2013 had appeared in previous reports. From mid-2012, the underlying concerns about how Universal Credit would work meant that the Department could not address recommendations from assurance reviews; it failed to fully implement two-thirds of the recommendations made by internal audit and the Major Projects Authority in 2012. (paragraphs 3.33 to 3.35).


The report is damning about the overall project management:


“The Department has delayed rolling out Universal Credit to claimants, has had weak control of the programme, and has been unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300 million to develop. These problems represent a significant setback to Universal Credit and raise wider concerns about the Department’s ability to deal with weak programme management, over-optimistic timescales, and a lack of openness about progress.”

A Country Firing on All Cylinders – New Social Security for Disabled People

Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, in a speech on social security for disabled people, said:

Five weeks ago Ed Miliband explained how a One Nation Labour government will reform social security so that once again it works for working people.

And for the Labour Party – the party of work – that starts with jobs.
So, over the past month, I’ve made a series of speeches about how we get our country back to work.

There’s a simple reason why.

As Ed Balls explained: because this government throttled the recovery we left in 2010, we have lower growth and higher unemployment and £270 billion less in tax receipts than was planned.

That means this government is borrowing £245 billion more than it
planned – and to pay for it, we now have an attack on the social security system that holds our country together. That is enough money to fund the entire NHS for over two years.

That’s why we need a different plan for the economy. A new plan to put social security back on an even keel.

A new plan that deals with, not dodges long-term rising costs.
I believe that this means a very different set of reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Work Programme is failing. It does nothing for nine out of ten people it’s supposed to help. We need to stop fighting unemployment with one hand tied behind our back and create a new alliance between the government, the private sector, the third sector and local authorities – like they do in Germany.

We need to support our older workers – the very people who have either cared the most or paid in the most and yet now face unemployment that stretches on the most – longer than for any other age group.

We need to support working parents who want to go back to work but today don’t get enough support to hold down the average part-time job.

We need to transform the way we support young people back to work because they are going to pay for the future of our pensions and our NHS and right now there’s nearly a million of them out of work – something about which I’ll have a lot more to say later in the summer.

And today, I want to talk about why and crucially how we must revitalise support for disabled people

The challenge of the future

The argument for stronger rights for disabled people starts deep in our party’s past: but its logic is dictated by our country’s future.

Quite simply, we are not going to succeed as a country in the new world fast taking shape today, unless we draw on every ounce of talent we’ve got.

Earlier this year, I wrote a book about how Britain is going to succeed in what some are calling the ‘Asian century’.

I spoke to anyone and everyone who had a view.

I’ve visited places like Tianjin connected to China’s capital by high speed rail where they’re building an aerospace industry, a pharmaceuticals industry and a financial services industry – in other words, all the things that we like to think we’re the best at.

One thing everyone had in common was the idea that there is no way on earth Britain is ever going to win a race to the bottom.

Today, 12 years after the China joined the World Trade Organisation, nearly a decade after we doubled the size of Europe, as we stand on the threshold of talks to open a free trade zone between Britain and America, a country which in turn is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, unskilled workers in Britain compete with people paid 90 per cent in less developed parts of the world.

We are never going to compete and win with a low pay, low skills, low tech strategy.


And if you want proof, here’s a fact to focus the mind.

Over half of unskilled workers in Britain are out of a job.

The highest level on record.

You’ve probably heard of a great new book by David Sainsbury called Progressive Capitalism. I like it because it’s got a big simple message.
The only way we get to win is in what David calls a race to the top.
Where we compete on innovation. High tech. Brain power. New ideas.
Here’s the lesson for us: What we know about innovative societies is that they draw on every ounce of talent.

In other words, our success in the new world that is coming depends on our resolve to give everyone a chance to contribute.
And yet, today we don’t do that.


Because we have not shattered the link between disability and disconnection.

Between disability and disadvantage.

Today, one in five adults in Britain has a disability of some kind.
That means that unless we give all disabled adults the chance to contribute, we’re only drawing on 80 per cent of our power.

We’re only firing on four out of five cylinders.
Are we so rich and are we so prosperous that we can afford to do that?

I don’t think so.

And that is why social security has got to change so that we make the right to work a reality for disabled people in 21st century Britain.
Ed Miliband has said it loud and clear:

Work for everyone who can work, that is our starting point for reform. That’s how we start to bring welfare spending under control.

But today, disabled citizens are far less likely to win the right to work than anyone else – or go to university, or run our major organisations.
Although disabled people are 20 per cent of the population, disabled people hold just 3.5 per cent of public appointments.

Over half of disabled people are economically inactive.

Disabled people are twice as likely to be out of work than non-disabled people.

Over 40 per cent of disabled people have qualifications below 5 A* – C at GCSE.

Even in work, disabled people experience a pay penalty: median hourly wages are 20 per cent lower for disabled women and 12 per cent lower for disabled men.

The result is bad for the country – and it’s bad for disabled people.

A far higher proportion of disabled people live in poverty than anyone else.

According to latest figures from the House of Commons Library, working age disabled adults are 50 per cent more likely to live in poverty than non disabled adults.

A staggering 2.3 million disabled people live in relative poverty –across the UK.

One third of the households in absolute poverty are home to someone with a disability.

We simply cannot go on like this.

The system is broken.

And it’s got to change.

The proportion of the population who reported a long-standing disability or illness has increased by 50 per cent over the last 40 years.

But in the future, improved diagnosis, reduced stigma in reporting disability, and better survival rates for pre-term infants all mean that the proportion of children and young people who will become disabled adults will not fall, it will rise between now and 2020.

So we’re running out of time.

With these great challenges of the future looming before us, it’s very, very depressing to see the Government’s response.

No plan to reform social security for the long term, just a series of petty political games

An Australian friend of mine was telling me about the Lynton Crosby play-book the other day.

“Watch out”, he said, “for a strategy of distract, detach and divide”.

“The Tories will find any issue they can to distract the media from the economy.”

“They’ll try and detach a block of voters from you and make them their own”.

“And they’ll try and divide you one from each other”.

And that’s all we’ve had on welfare policy. A constant search for dividing lines. A constant attempt to divide and rule.
It might make good headlines. But it makes terrible policy. The welfare revolution we were promised has failed because this government is more interested in pitting neighbour against neighbour than in changing things for the better.

Because let me ask you, when did a country ever achieve greatness with citizens fighting each other?

This country has only ever achieved great things, when we pulled together.

When we resolved not to leave anyone behind.

When we listened to that ethical voice in our head that says actually we do have an obligation to look after each other.

Ever since the advent of ‘Broken Britain’ – remember that? – Tory politicians have served up a diet of stories, arguments, dodgy data devoted to reinforcing a war on disabled people and disability benefits.
The scroungers subtext is never far away or hard to spot. And now we reap a bitter harvest.

A salvo of changes that have created a climate, not of hope but of fear, amongst thousands of disabled people and their families.

It is distraction politics. It is divisive politics

It is in fact an attempt to disguise the basic truth that by the final year of this parliament, the Government is taking 23 per cent more from disabled people and social care than it is off banks.

More than three years into office, this mule-ish government is refusing to learn from experience.

It’s refusing to learn in the light of experience or to make the radical changes that are so clearly needed.

It’s refusing to disperse the climate of fear it has created.

  • The goal of equality has been dropped from the Government’s disability strategy.
  • The Work Programme is three times worse than doing nothing for disabled people – it’s failing for nearly 95% of new ESA claimants.
  • The Benefit’s Uprating Bill, without measures to get people back into work, will push 50,000 into poverty whilst millionaires get a tax cut.
  • Changes to DLA that don’t take any account of what they will do to a person’s ability to go out a work.
  • The Bedroom Tax will hit 440,000 disabled people even though there are now real concerns it won’t even save any money.
  • Disabled former workers have lost benefits they paid in for regardless of whether they’re fit to work or not.
  • Families with disabled children will lose up to £1,400 a year when universal credit is introduced even though David Cameron promised to protect them.
  • The Care Bill does nothing to address the current care crisis for disabled people. So far the debate on social care funding has been almost exclusively about how the system should respond to the demands of the ageing society and not working age disabled people – and as Andy Burnham has said that needs to change.
  • Research for Scope revealed nearly half of disabled people felt that attitudes towards them had got worse over the last year.
  • Research for Demos find that disabled people now feel ‘a sense of persecution” and “a perfect storm of mental distress”.
  • Frankly George Osborne was lucky to get away with boos at the Paralympics. Most of my disabled friends would propose something a little tougher.

The way forward

The father of the National Health Service, Nye Bevan, only ever wrote one book, ‘In Place of Fear’. An extraordinary poetry. On the penultimate page he said this:

‘Progress is not the elimination of struggle but rather a change in its term’.

Well, the struggle is intensifying for disabled people.

But every generation has to strike a new balance between universal and targeted support.

Today, someone in our country is registered as disabled every 3 minutes.
As Australia’s former prime minister argued last month, the case for reform is very simple:

“Disability can affect any of us and therefore it affects all of us.
The existence of disability in our community cannot always be avoided.
But the consequences of disability—isolation, poverty, loss of dignity, stress, hopelessness and fear of the future—can be avoided.”

So I believe it’s time for a profound change in the way we support disabled people.

If the government refuses to propose fundamental change then we will.
Last year, I talked about what some of these rights might look like.

They are what Amartya Sen calls, the “substantive freedoms” – the capabilities – to choose a life that one has reason to value.

I think they are things like:

  • The right to health;
  • to be skilled and knowledgeable;
  • To be able to work if you can;
  • to have a roof over your head;
  • to live free from fear of attack;
  • to have a family;
  • to be part of a community;
  • to be able to get around;
  • to have aspirations for the future.

Labour has a proud record of creating new universal institutions that help civilise the labour market. That makes a reality of these kind of rights.

The National Minimum Wage. Tax credits, soon to become universal credit. Universal occupational pensions.

I think the time has now come for us to explore how we add to this list; to learn the lessons from Australia on universal disability insurance.

Benefits and services that are not just a safety net, but a ladder for disabled people and their carers.

No-one plans to become disabled. No-one plans for a loved one to become disabled.

Life deals the cards it deals.

But if the whole idea of national insurance it meant anything at all, was that we all pay in to insure ourselves against the slings and arrows of life.
It’s a system that lets us support each other.

It’s a system that should be there when we need it.

And right now, it’s not.

Today, we support disabled people by putting them in the middle of a labyrinth and telling them to find their way out.

There are assessments for social care. There are assessments for PiP. There are assessments like the Work Capability Assessment.

Of course we need assessments – but at the moment, everyone asks the same question. And hundreds of thousands of the assessments are wrong. Years are wasted in court, where eventually 40 per cent of appeals are won.

It is a monumental waste of money. £74 million according to evidence provided to the Public Accounts Committee by Disability Rights UK.

We spend £900 million on Atos. We’re about to spend £540 million on Atos and Capita. Heaven knows how much we spend on social care assessments.

I think it’s time to end the labyrinth.

It’s time to bring services and benefits together to support disabled people in a new way.

I think it’s time for us to explore lessons from Australia where their model of ‘universal disability insurance’ has seen the integration of back to work support, social care, and disability benefits in a single personal budget, which is being pioneered with cross-party support.

The next Labour government won’t – couldn’t – deliver this over night.
We would not impose solutions on disabled people, we will coproduce our solutions together with disabled people.

The National Health Service wasn’t built in a day. It took six years of planning and creation.

The same will be true for a system of universal disability insurance.

Because of this Government’s economic failure, Labour’s inheritance will be hard.

But I think we can build on the work Anne McGuire and I pushed forward in government when we served as ministers together, pioneering individual budgets and we can develop the concept of ‘whole person care’ that Andy Burnham has laid out with such vision.

Today, I want to set out the five principles that should guide our thoughts.

Principle 1: A personal plan for support, including employment

We should bring support for disabled people together as far as we can – including employment.

Rather than separate services treating different bits of a person, we should provide a single service to meet all of a person’s care needs.

This means health and social care, mental health and employment services working together.

As Scope’s Richard Hawkes put it: “Disabled people don’t only fall between the cracks separating the health and social care system – but they must also navigate the welfare system, employment support and housing”.

At the centre of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme is a personal plan for each participant.

Coordinators will work with participants to establish goals and support needs, to develop a personalised plan and to connect people to mainstream services and community supports.

In Britain we could build this out of the legislation in the Care Bill aims to enshrine the principles of economic wellbeing in a wider definition of wellbeing for disabled people by introducing a new requirement on Local Authorities to promote “economic well being” and the “participation in work, education and training” for disabled people.

Principle 2: Local partnerships

Second, to achieve this aim, we should create local partnerships between the DWP, specifically the DWP’s Pensions, Disability & Carers’ Service, Social Care, the NHS, Local Enterprise Partnerships, emerging City Deals and disability organisations.

These partnerships could be underpinned by the ‘duty to cooperate’, like for example the children’s trusts we created in 2004.

Children’s trusts transformed the way services worked together to improve the learning, health and happiness of children.

This is what the Care Bill misses out. There is plenty in there about the duties on local authorities. But nothing about the way in which councils, the NHS and the DWP have to work together.

Principle 3: “Tell us once” approach to assessments

Third, a person centred approach would need a radical approach to information sharing.

Everyone agrees that assessments are necessary to make sure people get the help and support they need, but the last thing anyone wants to do is fill out time consuming forms, or take a series of tests unless they are absolutely necessary.

Labour believes it is now time to look again at how we can streamline the process. For example, we will look at introducing assessments which dovetail together to gauge eligibility and need in the quickest and most efficient way possible. This could include assessments for employment, health and social support needs as well as benefit entitlement.

The principle should follow the “Tell Us Once” approach, a cross-government programme pioneered by Labour which allows customers to inform local government of a change in circumstance such as births, deaths and change of addresses only once.

I’m delighted that the former head of Pensions Disability and Carer’s Services Alexis Cleveland has agreed to help us think this through.

Principle 4: Empowering approach to assessments

Fourth assessments should serve to put a team behind disabled people, not a bureaucracy against them.

So Labour will also look at reforming tests so that they identify the help disabled people actually need to achieve economic well-being and independent living, rather than a simple assessment of conditions.

Principle 5: Root and branch review of employment support programmes for disabled people offered though a personal budget

To simplify the employment support system, improve targeting and give disabled people choice over the type of support they receive, we will look at rolling disability employment programmes into one individual budget-based programme.

This could be contracted locally with the budget pooled with other services. This could build on Andy Burnham’s Whole Person Care approach and the Right to Control pilots, and would give individuals greater choice over the support that they most need.

We know the impact work can have for disabled people – and whether or not they live in poverty. Today someone on ESA and DLA will live in poverty – nearly £600 below the poverty line.

Help someone work three hours a week and they will be £400 above the poverty line.

Someone working 30 hours a week will be over £5,000 above the poverty line.

As Ed Miliband’s speech said – if we reform social security in the right way, we free more people to work, lift more people out of poverty, and bring down the benefits bill at the same time.

That’s why I’m determined to make sure if a disabled person can work, we must do anything and everything to help them.

Labour is the party of work.

Last year, from Stephen Hawking’s mesmerising introduction at the opening ceremony to Jonnie Peacock’s blistering sprint, the Paralympics have blasted into the public mind the extraordinary capability and contribution of Britain’s disabled citizens.

The challenge for Britain now – and especially for our government – is to instantly shift focus; from applauding the achievements of our disabled superstars on the world-stage to advancing the ambitions of our disabled citizens in everyday life.

At the Paralympics opening ceremony Stephen Hawking left us with inspirational words that I use with my own kids and school-children in my constituency: “There should be no boundary to human endeavour”.

I want to live in a country where there aren’t boundaries to human endeavour.

And that’s why I believe the system has got to change.





Ministers seem to have got jobseekers wasting time on mumbo jumbo personality tests when they should be looking for work

The Guardian reports that that jobseekers are being asked to complete ‘bogus psychometric tests, as reported here:

No wonder unemployment is higher today than when this government came to power.

Ministers seem to have got jobseekers wasting time on mumbo jumbo personality tests when they should be looking for work.

This country desperately needs real action to get people into jobs not pointless tests. That’s why we need Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee to get anyone out of for more than two years into a job – one they would be required to take

Why Conservative benefit cuts won’t get Britain working

In place of the Tory party’s heartless and hopeless policy, Labour proposes full employment and the old principle of contribution

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne | The Observer | 7 April 2013

These are desperate times for the government and I expected a desperate argument from George Osborne last week. This was when he would slash not only Britain’s vital social safety net, but also help for working people – just at the very moment when he hands out tax cuts for the very rich. It’s a vicious strategy and horrible politics.

Yet Osborne went still further. He disgusted me and demeaned the office of chancellor by using the crimes of Mick Philpott to support his attacks on people who claim benefit. David Cameron’s decision to act as his chancellor’s echo chamber was as predictable as it was depressing.

They both want to play “divide and rule”. To distract the public from their failure to get the economy growing and control the rising bill for unemployment, they point the finger at families struggling to get by in an economy where opportunity has grown very, very thin.

The truth is that, for all their rhetoric about making work pay or supporting strivers, it is working families and those in real need who are footing the bill for the government’s catastrophic economic failure. In the same week when millionaires receive a tax cut, families will on average lose £891 a year and 400,000 disabled people will be hit by a bedroom tax which is deeply unfair.

The government’s supposed reforms are not only heartless, but also hopeless. Housing benefit changes cost more than they save, tax credit changes are making families better off on benefits, the work programme has become all programme and no work, and universal credit is descending into universal chaos. Our “one nation” approach to reforming social security is very different. Instead of seeking to divide people, we want to ensure everyone plays their part so we can rebuild Britain together.

I know as well as anyone that there are going to be difficult decisions. But let’s be clear: the best way to save money is to get people back into work. As David Miliband put it earlier this year, the enemy within is not the unemployed, but unemployment. The biggest problem is not the rate of benefits being paid, but the number of people being paid benefits. That’s why we need a different approach founded on three principles.

First, people must be better off in work than living on benefits. We would make work pay by reintroducing a 10p tax rate and supporting employers who pay the living wage. Second, we would match rights with responsibilities. Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to be live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility. This would be paid for by taxing bankers’ bonuses and restricting pension tax relief for the wealthiest. People would have to take this opportunity or lose benefits.

Third, we must do more to strengthen the old principle of contribution: there are lots of people right now who feel they pay an awful lot more in than they ever get back. That should change. We should start by letting councils give priority in social housing allocations to those who work and contribute to their community.

Rather than divide and rule, we believe Britain can only overcome the enormous challenges we face if all of us – from top to bottom – play our part.

Trasnscript of the Second Reading of the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill

For your reference, here is the link to the transcript of yesterday’s debate: