Spring Budget 2023: Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has introduced a government white paper on disability workplace reform, as part of an aim to address the two million people who are economically inactive due to disability or long-term sickness.
In his Spring Budget statement today (15 March 2023), Hunt noted that the number of disabled people in work had risen by two million since 2013. However, he added that more needed to be done to support people accessing or returning to work.
The government, therefore, made a commitment to address the barriers that stop people who want to from working.
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Hunt said: “We could fill half the vacancies in the economy with people who say they would like to work despite being inactive due to sickness or disability. With Zoom, Teams and new working models that make it easier to work from home, this is possible now more than ever.”
Hunt introduced Universal Support, a voluntary employment scheme for disabled people. Government will spend up to £4,000 per person to help them find appropriate jobs, and put in place support systems.
The programme aims to create 50,000 placements every year.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Group Risk Development (Grid), said: “It is really encouraging to see 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.”
She added: “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. This will mitigate the number of absences, and get people back to work. Group income protection providers can help deliver that outcome for employers and employees alike, whilst saving the state considerable effort and cost.
“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 refocusing the welfare safety net to encourage those who are economically inactive to move back into work, but it needs to do more.”