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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February 2005, 15:46 GMT
Charities consider benefit change
The government has outlined plans to reform the welfare system for sick and disabled people in a bid to help them get work.

A number of disability charities told BBC News their thoughts on the changes.

Job centre
The government hopes the changes will encourage people to find jobs

The reforms have been given a cautious welcome by Bert Massie, chairman of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC).

Mr Massie said: "The changes introduced today will mean that disabled people will be able to make a positive contribution.

It is important that people on Incapacity Benefit who cannot do paid work are not penalised financially or made to feel guilty
Bert Massie
Disability Rights Commission

"But for these measures to work, high quality support will be needed from assessment of those deemed able to work, right through to finding and maintaining opportunities to work."

"It is important that people on Incapacity Benefit who cannot do paid work are not penalised financially or made to feel guilty."

The five-year plan, which was revealed on Wednesday, aims to cut the length of time some people are on Incapacity Benefit.

Disability charity Scope said it "broadly" supported the changes as it "should provide increased support to disabled people who are able and want to work and to those who cannot".

Engaging employers

But it stressed that the government should "engage employers so that they can play their part in eliminating discrimination".

However, the changes have not been welcomed by all groups.

Mental health charity SANE is concerned that the new measures could hit those who deserve help.

Marjorie Wallace, the charity's chief executive, said: "We fear that because the reasons why people with mental illness cannot work can be far less obvious than in the case of those with physical conditions - but with effects just as crippling.

"The increased pressure on individuals who are mentally frail may push them over the edge, triggering a relapse and a worsening of their illness."

She added: "For such people, the benefit makes the difference between a deprived or bearable daily life."

Living on benefit

A former debt advisor who has been receiving benefit for the last 20 years said the extra money would make little difference to his quality of life.

The 56 year-old man, who suffers from a number of afflictions including stomach ulcers, anaemia, psoriasis and depression said: "Who would want live on benefit? You only get enough money to get by on. This won't change anything for me.

"It would be good to get a job - we're often defined by what we do for a living - but I know it is not realistic."

"My health is very poor - I am far too frail to work as I become exhausted very easily."

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