The Government is launching a white paper on disability benefits reform as part of its aim to get more people back to work, the Chancellor has revealed.
The move is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of people, including many who are not working because of long-term sickness absence or health reasons.
According to the Jeremy Hunt, the Department for Work and Pensions’ Health and Disability white paper is “the biggest change to our welfare system in a decade”.
Commenting on the initiative from work and pensions secretary Mel Stride, he said: “His plans will abolish the Work Capability Assessment in Great Britain and separate benefit entitlement from an individual’s ability to work. As a result, disabled benefit claimants will always be able to seek work without fear of losing financial support.”
Group Risk Development (Grid) welcomed the Government’s paper but believes it falls short in helping people back to work.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, said: “It’s really encouraging to see the Government acknowledging the human wastage that long-term sickness absence from the workplace can bring and announcing positive steps to de-risk the journey back into work. It needs to go much further, however, in addressing how people fall out of work in the first place, as well as how to encourage them back.
“We must deal with the question of how people end up being economically inactive in the first place. In many cases, employees wouldn’t leave work if they were better supported by their employer. The support is available for companies to offer: they will find help within their benefits package – via their, private medical, occupational health or other benefits.”
She believes it’s time for government to “be proactive and encourage more employers to move towards providing a better level of long-term sick pay and support during absence”, which could mitigate the number of absences and get people back to work.
Moxham added: “The group risk industry has long understood that, as well as providing financial independence, work plays a vital role in promoting mental wellbeing, building self-esteem and identity, and providing fulfilment and opportunities for social interaction. It’s not surprising that government is refocussing the welfare safety net to encourage those who are economically inactive to move back into work, but it needs to do more.”
In his Budget, Hunt also outlined plans for a new programme, Universal Support, which will be implemented in England and Wales.
He explained: “This is a new, voluntary employment scheme for disabled people where the government will spend up to £4,000 per person to help them find appropriate jobs and put in place the support they need. It will fund 50,000 places every single year.”