Caring face of capitalism key to reviving jobs market - Iain Duncan Smith
FORMER Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has said he will insist that social enterprise firms are used to provide a stepping stone to get the unemployed back to work.
• Iain Duncan Smith: "We're not setting out to take benefits away from anybody"
The Work and Pensions Secretary said that social enterprise firms - companies who employ disadvantaged people - would play a key role in his reforms of the welfare system.
Mr Duncan Smith gave his backing to that approach on a trip to Edinburgh where he visited Forth Sector, a firm that provides work placements to 100 people with mental health conditions.
He paid tribute to the work carried out by the company, saying it was "critical" in helping people off the dole.
The firm provides work at its five businesses, including the Parkview Laundry in Craigmillar where Mr Duncan Smith met staff.
Those on placements receive state benefits and spend an average of two years working for the company before moving on to paid employment elsewhere.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "It's absolutely fantastic what's going on here today. It's exactly what's required, helping people with difficulties get back into employment."
He said that the Westminster coalition government's new Work Programme would use such organisations to provide tailored support to the unemployed.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "Stepping stones through organisations like this, I think, will be absolutely critical and I'll be insisting on it, that organisations like this are involved in the contracts and packages.
"The whole thing is a really good lesson to us as we move through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) - moving people from incapacity benefit to work-related programmes.
"It's very important for us to tie in to organisations like this so you can get that personalised focused support which is necessary for people who have had difficulties in their lives and find it difficult to get back into work."
The coalition government's proposed simplification of the benefits system will be tested in Aberdeen and Burnley. From next month, they will be the first in the country to be assessed for their ability to work through the new WCA.
Mr Duncan Smith said the trial will give "a sense of how that's going to work and what issues we need to change when we bring in the nationwide programme".
He said a key goal was to ensure that working in a job leaves people better off than benefits and targeting long-term inter-generational unemployment.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "We're not setting out to take benefits away from anybody at this stage.What we're setting out to do is to make sure that they progress from benefits through to independence."
He refused to be drawn on the scale of cuts to the welfare bill - estimated to be around 15 billion - due to be announced in the comprehensive spending review on 20 October.
Forth Sector chief executive Mike Finlayson stressed that welfare cuts should not disadvantage the people his company employs.
Mr Finlayson said there was a need for objective assessment of claimants which is not "purely financially driven".
Forth Sector is funded by local authorities and generates an income from its trade, which includes the Six Mary's Guest House in Stockbridge and the Soap Company.
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