Chancellor Announces Back To Work Plan for Disabled People Backed By Tougher Sanctions

Fri,17 November 2023
News Benefits Employment Equality & Rights
Forming part of his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced a New Back to Work Plan to help Disabled people, those with long-term health conditions, or “long-term unemployment” to look for and stay in work.

The Government is to boost four key programmes –  

Also launched was the new WorkWell service as announced at the 2023 Spring Budget and delivered by the Departments for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Health and Social Care. 

This is aimed at supporting almost 60,000 long-term sick or Disabled people “to start, stay and succeed in work” once rolled out in around 15 areas across England.  

A prospectus launched in the coming weeks will provide information for all Integrated Care Systems across England to develop their localised work and health strategy.  

Ministers are also planning to trial reforms to the fit note process to “make it easier and quicker for people to get specialised work and health support.” 

However, stricter benefit sanctions will also be enforced by the DWP “for people who are able to work but refuse to engage with their Jobcentre or take on work offered to them”. Benefit claimants who continue to refuse to engage with the Jobcentre will face having their claim closed. 

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said: “These changes mean there’s help and support for everyone – but for those who refuse it, there are consequences too. Anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers will lose their benefits.” 

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, said: “We are rolling out the next generation of welfare reforms to help more people start, stay and succeed in work. We know the positive impact work can have, not just on our finances, but our health and wellbeing too. 

“So we are expanding the voluntary support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including our flagship Universal Support programme. 

“But our message is clear: if you are fit, if you refuse to work, if you are taking taxpayers for a ride – we will take your benefits away. 

Note: DR UK’s view is that the barriers to more Disabled people getting employment do not lie with Disabled people ourselves but with society – including inaccessible transport, poor employer attitudes, inadequate flexible working and  Access to Work Support and failure to make reasonable adjustments. 

There has been no research that finds that the conditionality and sanctions regime helps disabled people.  

“The Work and Pensions Committee of MPs found two years ago that not only is there no evidence that the DWP’s benefit conditionality sanctions system works but that “worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.” 

Those Disabled people who can work need support to do so, backed up by the provision of reasonable adjustments by employers.  

However those Disabled people who can’t work or can only work limited hours need protection from sanctions. 

What is not needed is the removal of no work conditionality, proposed by the March White Paper and recent work capability assessment consultation, with its replacement by a sanctions regime. 

For more information see Employment support launched for over a million people available from 

DR UK's formal response

“For the past few months there has been a seemingly relentless attack on vulnerable, long-term sick and Disabled people on benefits. 

From the tabloid press to the front bench at Westminster, this ongoing rhetoric is sadly nothing new to those who need the benefits system and the meagre benefits it provides but is becoming relentless and in an era of rising disability hate crime, unhelpful. 

For Disabled and vulnerable people benefits are essential to survive financially. The fact is that for many people, benefits is their sole income because work is not an option. For those who could and want to work vague threats around the removal of benefits, removal of free prescriptions and sanctions if not accepting the first job offered are not helping, in fact they are causing those already in the throes of long-term ill health and lifelong disability to suffer worsening health issues. 

The benefits system is the fault here, not the recipient. The UN special rapporteur on poverty and human rights said in 2018 that the UK benefits system could be branded “cruel and inhuman” and calling cuts to the welfare system ‘ideological’ and ‘tragic’. 

Perhaps the better thing to do is to invest in the benefits system, to increase benefits so Disabled people are not among the poorest in society, to re-structure the system to make it simpler and fairer and to put the wellbeing of Disabled people and those who are long term sick at the top of the political agenda, instead of Instead of laying the blame of the country’s financial woes at their collective doors.”