Proposed reform of sickness and disability benefits
published on 7 Sep 2023
In response to the Government’s announcement to consult on the current assessment that determines if people on sickness and disability benefits are fit to work, Rebecca Keating, The Salvation Army’s Director of Employment Services said:
“A secure job with a decent wage is one of the best paths out of poverty so helping those with mental or physical health issues to join the workforce is a laudable aim. However, to achieve this, it’s employment support that needs shaking up not sickness and disability benefits.
“Despite a labour shortage, ironically the Government has cut funding to many specialist employment service providers, who help the very people the Government wants in work, forcing them to turn clients away or even shut down.
“Rather than punish those who are too ill to work, potentially causing them harm and pushing them into poverty during a cost-of-living crisis, the Government should help those who are desperate to work but can’t due to circumstances or lack of support.
“The current routes into employment, don’t work for everyone. And those forced into unsuitable jobs don’t stay. This is not only bad for the employees who get their benefits cut, but also for employers who are forced to keep rehiring. But, we know from our Employment Plus service how specialist support, tailored to the individual, can enable people to overcome barriers to work, including those with mental and physical health issues. Our approach has helped thousands join the labour force and around 70 per cent of people we help are still in the same job six months later compared to an average 20 per cent who go down other mainstream routes.”
The Salvation Army is calling for the Government to:
- Safeguard the future of specialist employment services by ringfencing money from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) for people and skills, which is meant to help level up deprived areas of the UK.
- Set local targets on reducing economic inactivity and ensure local leaders have the investment they need to achieve these.
- Set up a cross-Government taskforce to tackle, with empathy and compassion, the reasons why people are not earning and are trapped in poverty.