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March 15, 2023

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2023 BUDGET: Focus on disability benefits and workplace wellbeing

In his inaugural Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to change disability benefit and an increased focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.

A white paper published today on disability benefits, includes plans to abolish the work capability assessment and to separate benefits entitlement from an individual’s ability to work.

As a result, Hunt says, disabled benefit claimants will always be able to seek work without fear of losing financial support.

He explains there will be new, voluntary employment scheme for disabled people where the government will spend up to £4,000 per person to help them find appropriate jobs and put in place the support they need.

It will fund 50,000 places every single year.

Hunt has also allocated £400m in funding to increase the availability of mental health and musculoskeletal resources for workers and will assign £10m to the voluntary sector over the next two years to help prevent suicides. He says it will play an even bigger role in “stopping families facing that intolerable heartache”.

“It’s time for the government to be proactive”

Commenting on the white paper, Katharine Moxham, Spokesperson for Group Risk Development (GRiD) today said: “It’s 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.

“We must deal with the question of how people end up being economically inactive in the first place. In many cases, employees wouldn’t leave work if they were better supported by their employer.

“The support is available for companies to offer: they will find help within their benefits package – via their, private medical, occupational health or other benefits. For example, as well as meeting the costs of long-term sick pay, a group income protection policy will include access to help from vocational rehabilitation experts, and access to advice and support with both short- and long-term health conditions and making reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.

“An insurer might even help with the extra costs of keeping someone in work – such as providing or modifying equipment – on an ex-gratia basis.

“So, it’s time for the 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.”

Mental health – “No funding to better support our NHS services”

Also commenting on the announcements, Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive at Mind, said: “Today’s budget might have been billed as a ‘Back to Work’ budget, but the truth is that what the Chancellor has delivered today is anything but.

“This budget was a one-dimensional, overly-simplistic approach to a complex, systemic issue. Our society is experiencing widespread poor mental health – people are falling out of work, and struggling to recover when they do fall out of work, because of the failure to tackle this issue.

“There was no funding to better support our NHS services that enable many people’s recovery when they’re in poor mental health. There were no measures that would help prevent people’s mental health from declining in the first place. And there was little to help employers create more mentally healthy workplaces so work is something people can to get back to and stay well while doing.

“If the UK government wants to achieve a society where people who feel recovered and ready to get back to work can do so, they need to be ambitious in tackling the scale of Britain’s mental health problems. Unfortunately, that ambition hasn’t been shown.”

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