Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith yesterday delivered his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, where he defended the Government’s record that has fixed, according to him, numerous problems created under the Labour administration.
Announcing new welfare policies, Duncan Smith said that he was testing pre-paid cards, onto which benefits payments would be made, clarifying in an interview after his speech, that these could only be used in certain shops, to ensure money goes to the needs of the family and “not to feed their destructive habits”.
He also defended the introduction of the claimant commitment that jobseekers now have to sign, as having a “transformative” effect while praising the Work Programme or finding employment for 600,000 people, as well as the “Disability Confident” campaign that has improved employment prospects for people with disabilities.
The Secretary of State went on to announce that jobseekers aged 18-21 years who have not found a job within six months will now have to start an apprenticeship, traineeship or community work in order to receive an allowance. In a speech that was clearly geared towards youth unemployment, he stated that Jobcentre advisors would be now visiting schools to speak with students at the age of 15, with a focus on those who are most at risk of becoming NEETs to assist them so that they do not “end up with a terrible wage scar”. He also announced that a Conservative Government would lower the benefit cap even further.
He also defended Universal Credit and announced that the scheme would be accelerated, with plans now in place to roll it out to all Jobcentres and local authorities across the country from early next year.
Meanwhile, former Employment Minister Mark Hoban raised scepticism on the use of such cards even before Duncan Smith’s announcement, stating that its use might create certain legal problems.
Also touching on benefits, Chancellor George Osborne used his speech to announce a two-year freeze in working benefits, which would include Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, Child Benefit and Employment Support Allowance.