With a long-term target of getting 80% of the eligible population into work, Gordon Brown revealed new measures to get lone parents and those claiming incapacity benefit back in employment.
To encourage lone parents to look for work, the government is piloting a £20-a-week Work Search Premium in eight areas across the country, available to single parents who have been claiming Income Support for more than a year.
And those single parents successful at getting work will be eligible for a £2,000 return to work bonus, to be introduced next month.
There will also be new rules to encourage incapacity benefit claimants into work and reforms in housing benefit.
These include a new ‘Rehabilitation and Support Allowance’ to allow claimants with more manageable conditions a higher rate of benefit than the current long-term rate in return for taking part in Work Focused Interviews and an agreed action plan to getting back to work.
The measures came just hours after latest ONS figures gave a mixed message of employment. While the number in work had reached a record high of 28.57 million, unemployment also rose by 22,000 in the three months to January, however, this was still down by 31,000 compared to the previous year.
The Office for National Statistics also reported that the number of manufacturing jobs lost since 1997 – when Labour came into power – nearly hit a million, coming in at 999,000.