By Ben Kerrigan-
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride have presented the Back to Work Plan, an employment-focused support package, as part of the Autumn Statement.
The ambitious plan aims to keep individuals healthy, transition them off benefits, and facilitate entry into the workforce, aligning with the government’s commitment to boost the UK economy, manage inflation, control spending, and enhance living standards.
The Back to Work Plan builds on the earlier £7 billion employment package from the Spring Budget. The new proposal, detailed in the Autumn Statement, outlines the expansion of employment support and treatment options for individuals with disabilities or health conditions.
Key components of the plan include reforms to the fit note system, an increased range of treatment and employment support, and the official launch of the WorkWell service, designed to aid people in starting, staying, and succeeding in work.
The government is bolstering four key programs – NHS Talking Therapies, Individual Placement and Support, Restart, and Universal Support – with the goal of benefiting up to 1.1 million people over the next five years. This initiative targets those with mental or physical health conditions, aiming to either retain or help them find employment.
The WorkWell service, announced during the Spring Budget, is being formally launched today and is expected to support nearly 60,000 long-term sick or disabled individuals across approximately 15 areas in England.
The government plans to provide information through a prospectus, allowing Integrated Care Systems throughout England to develop localized work and health strategies.
The proposed reforms also include trials to simplify and expedite the fit note process, making it easier for individuals to access specialized work and health support.
Given the rising number of people inactive due to long-term sickness or disability, the government aims to address the challenges posed by mental health, musculoskeletal conditions, and heart disease.
Stricter Benefit Sanctions
Stricter benefit sanctions will be enforced by the Department for Work and Pensions for individuals capable of working but refusing to engage with their Jobcentre or accept offered work. The measures are part of a broader strategy to combat long-term unemployment, with a focus on supporting Universal Credit claimants in finding work and strengthening work search requirements throughout their claims.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt emphasized the government’s commitment to growing the economy and addressing the rise in individuals not actively seeking employment. The proposed changes aim to provide support for those willing to engage, with consequences for those choosing to remain inactive.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride highlighted the positive impact of work on finances and well-being. While expanding voluntary support for individuals with health conditions and disabilities, the government’s message is clear: for those fit and refusing to work, benefits will be withdrawn.
The Back to Work Plan represents part of wider economic growth plans expected in the Autumn Statement. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is set to reveal several changes aimed at getting people back into work and stimulating economic activity.
The proposed legislation addresses long-term unemployment by supporting Universal Credit claimants, introducing stricter work search requirements, and implementing sanctions for those unwilling to engage in employment-seeking activities.
The comprehensive plan aligns with the government’s commitment to getting more people into good jobs, fostering economic growth, and improving overall living standards. It reflects a multifaceted approach to address both the individual needs of job seekers and the broader economic landscape.