Disabled people out of work urged to get remote jobs, as ministers aim to cut benefits bill

5 September 2023, 23:53 | Updated: 6 September 2023, 06:39

Mel Stride is aiming to get more people back into work
Mel Stride is aiming to get more people back into work. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Disabled people will be asked to work from home as part of a government bid to get more people back into jobs and to cut the benefits bill.

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Some 2.5 million working age adults are currently considered unfit to work, and the number could be set to grow.

But up to a million sickness and disability benefit claimants are now being ordered to seek work in a bid from the government to slash overall benefits payments and help people support themselves.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said that many jobs that would have required people to go into an office now offer remote working - which is likely to be an easier environment for some people currently off work with physical and mental health conditions.

Mr Stride said that people would be "given the right support and opportunities to move off benefits and towards the jobs market".

Read more: Unemployed could have benefits taken away unless they learn work skills under new government plans

Read more: Working From Home fuels long term sickness says minister as record 2.5million people signed off work

Mel Stride
Mel Stride. Picture: Alamy

Ministers think the push could get hundreds of thousands more people back into work, filling gaps in the jobs market and helping boost the company.

Mr Stride told the Commons: "We know many people who are on out-of-work benefits due to a health condition want to work, and, assisted by modern working practices, they could do so while managing their condition effectively.

"We have seen a huge shift in the world of work in the last few years, a huge change that has accelerated since the pandemic.

"This has opened up more opportunities for disabled people and those with health conditions to start, stay and to succeed in work."

Andrew Marr challenges Mel Stride on his changes to Work Capability Assessments

He added: "The Work Capability Assessment doesn't reflect how someone with a disability or health condition might be able to work from home, yet we know many disabled people do just that.

"Our plans include taking account of the fact that people with mobility problems or who suffer anxiety within the workplace have better access to employment opportunities from the rise in flexible and home working."

He added that the changes would not affect those at the end of their life, or with severe learning difficulties or disabilities.

Mr Stride said a consultation on the changes would run for eight weeks, and that the government hopes they could come into force by 2025.

Caller feels 'forced' to work more after Mel Stride encouraged over 50s to take on 'flexible' jobs

The British Chambers of Commerce said the plan would be good for businesses. Deputy policy director Jane Gratton said: 'Across the country, businesses are crying out for workers to fill job vacancies.

"Being employed has many positive benefits for people, so it makes sense to help everyone who wants to work to find a good job that meets their needs and personal circumstances.

"Employers understand this and want to be as flexible as possible to assist."

But disability charities warned that some people could make their conditions worse by having to get a job.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at disability equality charity Scope, urged ministers to ensure new employment support for disabled people is "flexible, and voluntary".

He said: "We're worried these proposals will end up forcing huge numbers of disabled people to look for work when they aren't well enough, making them more ill. If they don't meet strict conditions, they'll have their benefits stopped. In the grips of a cost-of-living crisis this could be catastrophic."

Sarah White, head of policy at national disability charity Sense, meanwhile warned the plans could "cause huge anxiety for disabled people up and down the country".

"We're seriously concerned that if the Government does overhaul its assessment process without putting any additional support in place, then disabled people are just going to be put under more pressure to find work, without having the support they need to do so," she said.

Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall described the proposals as "tinkering at the edges of a failing system".

She said: "But if you run your NHS into the ground for 13 years and let waiting lists for physical and mental health soar, if you fail to reform social care to help people caring for their loved ones, and if your sole aim is to try and score political points rather than reforming the system to get sick and disabled people who can work the help they really need, you end up with the mess we have today.

"A system that is failing sick and disabled people, that is failing taxpayers, and failing our country as a whole. Britain deserves far better than this."

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