Autumn budget 2023: welfare reforms announced

Published: November 22 2023
Last updated: November 22 2023

Grace Wood | As part of the autumn budget, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to reduce “workless households”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces his Autumn budget

The government has announced reforms to welfare for disabled people and those who are out of work.

As part of the autumn budget, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to reduce “workless households” through a new “Back to Work” plan.

The Back to Work plan seeks to help around one million people with long-term health conditions, disabilities, or long-term unemployment to look for and stay in work by expanding the treatment and employment support available.

However, it also introduces stricter benefit sanctions for people who can work but refuse to engage with their Jobcentre or decline work offered to them, including stopping people’s benefits if they don’t do enough to look for a job in six months.

Many people with epilepsy currently qualify for welfare benefits.

Hunt also announced that Universal Credit and other benefits would increase from next April by 6.7% in line with September 2023’s inflation rate.

Hunt said: “Today’s measures reward effort and work.”

The autumn budget also included measures on tackling inflation, public sector spending and increases to the state pension and national living wage.

A ‘duty’ to work

Earlier this week, MPs told Sky News and Times Radio that disabled people should look for work they can do from home.

Speaking to Sky News, chief secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott said: “There is a duty on citizens if they are able to go out to work they should. Those who can work and contribute should contribute.”

Epilepsy Action’s senior policy and campaign officer Daniel Jennings said: “We know that only 42% of people with epilepsy are in employment so we welcome efforts to get more people with disabilities and long-term health conditions into work.

“However, the way to do this is to provide tailored support for specific conditions to address the barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities, and not by pursuing harsher and harsher punishments for people already struggling on benefits during a cost-of-living crisis.

“While overall benefits are increasing, which is certainly a positive, people are going to be facing much tougher requirements for entitlement.

“These measures only cause people more stress, which is a seizure trigger for many people with epilepsy and is not the way to support people into work.”

In October, Epilepsy Action launched its Make Things Work campaign to improve work prospects for people with epilepsy.

The charity’s survey found 60% of people with epilepsy have been discriminated against at work.

Jennings added: “In addition to more tailored employment support, we also need to see a change in the attitudes of employers, as we know that far too many don’t treat people with epilepsy fairly.

“In a survey we carried out, 42% of employers admitted that they would be inclined not to hire someone with epilepsy to save their company potential challenges, even though they know they shouldn’t. We have launched a petition to strengthen employment law and are urging people to sign to help us put a stop to the disability discrimination too many people still face in the workplace.”