Back to Work Plan: Govt Launches Employment Support That Could Help Millions
Helping people stay healthy, get off benefits and move into work is part of the government’s back to work plan. This follows the growing number of people not working due to long-term illness, which peaked at 2.6 million.
To combat this problem, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride have devised a plan. It involves boosting four key programmes to encourage a phased return to work, including:
- NHS Talking Therapies – Making mental health treatments accessible to an additional 384,000 people.
- Individual Placement and Support – Helping an additional 100,000 people with severe mental illness find and retain work.
- The Restart Scheme – Becoming available to Universal Credit claimants after six months rather than nine. Aiming to help remove barriers to employment through coaching and getting individuals back to work.
- Universal Support – Placing 100,000 people a year in jobs and supporting them with it, providing personalised ‘place and train’ support.
By improving these programmes, the government hope to support up to 1.1 million people and those with health conditions to return to work over the next five years.
Also, fit note process reforms are being devised as part of the back to work plan. Ministers want to ensure specialised work and health support is quicker and easier to obtain through improved signposting and triage.
What’s more, the WorkWell service announced at the Spring Budget 2023 is now being formally launched. This aims to support individuals at risk of becoming long-term unemployed due to sickness or disability.
Additionally, they’ve announced the Department for Work and Pensions will enforce stricter benefits sanctions to encourage a phased return to work. This comes after recent data showed that 300,000 people had been unemployed for over a year. The sanctions apply to individuals who don’t engage with their Jobcentre or accept work offered if they can. In such circumstances, individuals risk having their benefits claim closed.
Furthermore, the government plans to support Universal Credit claimants to find work to tackle long-term unemployment. They will also strengthen the work search requirements for those claimants. As a result, claimants shouldn’t be unemployed for 18 months and be receiving full benefits if they’ve fully complied with Jobcentre support.
It’s clear what message the government want to send with their back to work plan. Jeremy Hunt said this plan supported everyone but provided consequences for ‘anyone choosing to coast on the hard work of taxpayers”. Mel Stride added, “If you are fit, if you refuse to work, if you are taking taxpayers for a ride – we will take your benefits away”.
Overall, the back to work plan will receive £2.5 billion of investment over the next five years. This builds on the £7 billion package announced in the Spring Budget. It also includes over £300 million of additional investment next year.