Sunak to launch 'work from home' drive in bid to get sick Brits off benefits

21 November 2023, 00:01 | Updated: 21 November 2023, 08:30

The plans will be laid out in the Autumn Statement
The plans will be laid out in the Autumn Statement. Picture: Getty/
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Rishi Sunak plans to launch a 'work from home' drive in a bid to get sick Brits off benefits and into a job.

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Under the plans, which will be launched as part of a series of measures in Wednesday's Autumn Statement, hundreds of thousands of disabled Brits will be told to look for jobs they can do from home, The Times reports.

That includes Brits with mobility and mental health problems.

If not, they could have their benefits reduced by nearly £4,700 a year. It will apply to all new benefit claimants from 2025.

Meanwhile, existing claimants will reportedly be given assurances that their right to benefits will not be re-assessed if they look for a job they can do from home.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott claimed Rishi Sunak is making progress on all five of his pledges.

When it was put to her that the Prime Minister has failed to deliver on most of the promises he made at the start of the year, Ms Trott told Nick: "I would refute that."

She said halving inflation was "a really important delivery", that "over the course of the year we have seen growth", and that small boat crossings "are down significantly".

"They were not easy targets, but they are ones where we have made progress on every single one," she said.

Laura Trott: 'We have made progress on every single one' of Rishi Sunak's pledges

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Picture: Getty

It comes after the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak teased "careful" tax cuts in a speech ahead of the Autumn Statement, in which he said there were no "fairytale" answers to fix the economy.

Mr Sunak said he believed in cutting taxes "carefully and sustainably", adding that the government's approach was "one that gets inflation down and keeps it down".

"One that believes the private sector grows the economy and, where government has a role, it must be limited," he said.

Read More: PM teases 'careful' tax cuts ahead of this week's Autumn Statement but says there are no 'fairytale' answers on economy

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"One that believes in cutting taxes, but doing so carefully and sustainably.  

"And one that is ambitious about the unprecedented opportunities for this country from the new wave of technology."

He refused to be drawn on which taxes would be cut, but told LBC that the 'biggest single tax cut' had already happened with inflation coming down and the benefits were already being felt.

Hundreds of thousands of Brits could be affected by the changes
Hundreds of thousands of Brits could be affected by the changes. Picture: Getty

But according to one top economist, a move to cut personal taxes would be "politically risky" for Mr Sunak and the government.

Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) Paul Johnson said such a move would come as a surprise, especially given that a general election appears to be around one year away.

"It's difficult to think what might be in those numbers that suggests that there’s all sorts of space to cut taxes…that there wasn’t, it seems, a few weeks ago," Mr Johnson told LBC's Andrew Marr.

He went on: "The [economy] may well have got better in the Office for Budget and Responsibility's (OBR) forecast over the last week or two, but there’s another budget to go before the next election, unless we’ve got a very, very early election.

“And of course, what the OBR gives it can take away between now and then, so I would have thought the last thing the government wants to do is announce tax cuts now, and then have to reverse them, or announce tax increases or big spending cuts next time, because the numbers have moved against them.”

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Getty

There had also been rumours that the Chancellor was considering cutting inheritance tax by as much as half, in what was also described as a "politically risky" move.

Inheritance tax is a tax on the estate (property, money, and any other assets) of a person who has died.

The tax is unpopular with Tory voters and would be much cheaper to cut than income tax.

According to the IFS's Mr Johnson, it would only represent a loss of £7bn to the government if it was to be scrapped entirely, which is "not that much" in the grand scheme of the economy.