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Centre for Social Justice - Government is right to get to grips with surging economic inactivity

Andy Cook, CEO of the CSJ commented on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s keynote policy speech about welfare reform at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)

It was an honour to welcome the Prime Minister to the Centre for Social Justice this morning to talk about his vision to transform the benefits system.

People are potential to be developed not problems to be solved and it was good to hear that thread echo loud and clear from a government that wants to get to grips with surging inactivity.

Our Alliance of frontline charities across the country has told us that for many people, sickness pays, not work. They see people falling out of the workforce too often and too easily.

Universal Credit has been one of the great success stories of the last few years: reducing unemployment, supporting people into work, and becoming one of the unsung heroes of the Covid pandemic.

But the growing number of people out of work through ill health is a major cause for concern. The number of people who are economically inactive due to long term sickness has increased by 717,000 since the covid-19 pandemic.

Each year, about 8 to 10 million Fit Notes are issued, over 90 per cent of which found someone not fit for work. The Prime Minister flagged that ‘good work’ isn’t just the best route out of poverty, it gives us meaning, purpose, routine, and the chance to build a better life. This notion is what the CSJ is founded on.

We welcome the focus on what people can do, rather than what they can’t. Reviewing the Fit Note system, to reduce pressure on GPs and help ensure people can continue to remain in work where currently it is too easy to fall out of it, is a welcome step.

The answers to this will not be easy. Protecting those that need the most support while encouraging those that can into work is a delicate balance. But with the cost of disability benefits set to rise by nearly 50 per cent in the next 5 years, addressing this is a challenge no government can afford to avoid.

Prime Minister’s speech on welfare: 19 April 2024

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