Welfare Reform

Lord Freud Transcript on welfare reform:

JR: Here with me in Manchester is the man behind the Tories’ latest plans, Shadow Welfare Minister Lord Freud. A former investment banker he advised Tony Blair on welfare reform before switching to the Conservatives earlier this year. David, thanks for coming in, nice to see you. Welfare reform and the Tories, indeed and Labour, it all sounds very familiar. You used to work for Labour, it seems to me that this is pretty much a rehash of what James Purnell of Labour was saying last year?
DF: It’s, some of the concepts there are the same and it’s not surprising because they’re based on actually a report that I wrote a couple of years ago which was to try and make sure that when you help people, if the person that is doing the helping has got a direct financial interest in making sure that that person gets a job. Because otherwise you can, you can scatter money around at an extraordinary amount, a huge amount of wastage. So this particular programme takes that principle and focuses it on, on, on effectively everybody. And that’s a very biog difference n practice to what was happening under this government.
JR: We’re saying something quite big here aren’t we? We’re saying that 500,000 people are claiming incapacity benefit and in effect they are in no way, ill sick, incapacitated. So are they just scroungers?
DF: No I mean there’s something very different going on in practice. What we’re doing is introducing, or what this government is doing is introducing a new way of assessing whether people are fit to work and when they have done the trials of that is when they put this new assessment through on people they find that a large number of them are actually able to do some work. The old test simply didn’t ask that question in the same way.

JR: So if they can work but aren’t, what’s the difference, why aren’t they scroungers?

DF: Well, you know, this is all, em, I mean being disabled in a funny way is something that we def, we as society define and it’s actually unfair to call people who are defined by various test, scroungers.
JR: But you’re saying that they’re not disabled that they’re fit for work?
DF: I am saying that if you look at, if you give them a test which assesses can they do some work, and they are found able to do the work, then we mean to give a very great deal of support to those people to help them back into the jobs market. And the real point underlying this is that the research, which has actually only come out a couple of years ago, has found that not working, for people who have got disabilities, is very bad for them and working is actually very good for them. So the state, and there’s many governments have been…

JR: I understand that David and I’m sure most people would agree with you but you’re saying that these people are not disabled. This is not about helping disabled people get jobs, it’s about helping people that are perfectly fit get jobs.

DF: People who are able to do some jobs and some work.

JR: So you’re saying partially disabled?

DF: Yes, I mean people, I mean you know something, it’s a very odd way of looking at someone defining them as being disabled. Everyone’s got a disability of one kind or another. It’s a question of where we draw that line and it’s not people that have been drawing that line, it’s the state that’s been drawing the line. S what we’re doing is we’re drawing a different line now. Both Conservatives and Labour are doing that.
JR: On that point, if we turned the clock back to the early nineties, and I know that you’re old enough to remember this, I certainly am, it was then the Tories who started this process wasn’t it? They started to slip people off unemployment onto Incapacity Benefit, to massage down the unemployment numbers. So is this finally the Tory Party coming clean?
DF: I think that there was a process there when it was still kind, to be where there weren’t jobs it was kinder to people to say look, don’t go on move over, and actually it was a very easy process to move over to incapacity benefit. That’s how the, that’s how the numbers swelled in the first place and the trouble was that when we got in back, in a good economy, they forgot to close the door. The door was left wide open with these, with these inadequate tests.

JR: This is about closing the door.

DF: And now we’re closing the door.

JR: OK, Lord Freud, David Freud, many thanks for coming in, we appreciate it