The Tories say they can dramatically reduce the cost to the taxpayer – while giving injured people a “compelling incentive to work” – by taking away crutches and wheelchairs from those on incapacity benefit.
Party leader David Cameron outlined the plans at the party conference in Bournemouth today, saying that those who are currently using crutches or wheelchairs because of injury will simply have them taken away and be told to walk. Rivals have labelled the plans “callous”, a claim the Tory leader dismissed with a derisive snort.
Cameron described the move as a “big, bold” shakeup of the welfare system, and claims it won’t reduce the quality of life of those who are genuinely sick. He said: “What we are going to do is kick the crutches away and see what happens. If the person walks, then all well and good, they can go and get a job in a packing factory. However, if the person falls, they can simply be supported under the elbows by friends or family and escorted to a job such as data entry.”
The Tories claim the scheme will save the taxpayer around £600m a year, with the kicking to be done by a new set of private firms, who will also be in charge of training the new job seekers in either packing or data entry. Start up costs for the kicking/training firms are estimated to be £600m.
The target for getting the sick back to work is to be set at 100%, say the Tories. “If they’re alive they can work,” said Cameron. “There’s always something useful people can do isn’t there? I mean, for God’s sake, Stephen Hawking works.”
Shadow School’s Secretary Michael Grove denied it was a throwback to the eighties, saying that this policy was definitely part of the fluffy, marshmallowy Conservatism that has been widely touted in recent years. “This is not about penalising the sick it’s about helping them,” he said. “Many will be thanking us through tear-stained cheeks when we kick their crutches away, I can tell you.”