Daily Mail

Hunt’s plan to ‘nudge’ the long-term sick back to work

- By Jason Groves Political Editor

MILLIONS of workers written off as long-term sick will be required to consider a return to employment under Budget plans to be released next week.

Jeremy Hunt will unveil the findings of a major ‘workforce review’ designed to ease Britain’s tight labour market by ‘nudging’ hundreds of thousands of people back into work.

The review will include the introducti­on of new ‘conditiona­lity’ requiremen­ts for an estimated 2.5million classed as long-term sick.

Those suffering long-term problems such as mental health issues, stress and back pain will be offered extra support to help them to get back to work.

But in return they will be required to look for a job if they want to continue claiming benefits.

A Whitehall source said the Chancellor wants to end the situation where people are no longer required to show they are looking for work once they have been signed off as sick.

‘A significan­t number of these are younger people with mental health issues and older people with back issues,’ the source said.

‘There is an argument that many of the former would get better more quickly if they were back in the workplace.

‘And there is no reason why people with back problems should be written off. The fact that they may not be able to do their old job does not mean they cannot work at all.’

Ministers are braced for the plan to require the long-term sick and disabled to look for work to prove controvers­ial. But they believe that, handled sensitivel­y, it could boost growth and improve some people’s quality of life.

Mr Hunt is also expected to sign off funding for older workers to get annual health checks in order to pick up problems earlier and reduce the number leaving the workforce because of ill health. The workforce review is designed to reverse a trend that has seen an estimated 630,000 adults leave the labour market since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Hunt sees the issue as vital to his plans for boosting growth at a time when he is resisting tax cuts because of fears they would fuel inflation.

In a speech in January, he said that around five million people of working age were currently choosing not to work – a figure he described as ‘an enormous and shocking waste of talent and potential’. He added: ‘We will never harness the full potential of our country unless we unlock it for each and every one of our citizens.

‘Nor will we fix our productivi­ty puzzle unless everyone who can participat­e does.’

Next Wednesday’s Budget package will include a range of ‘carrots and sticks’ designed to ‘nudge’ people back into work.

The Daily Mail revealed this week that Mr Hunt will end the

‘A shocking waste of talent’

freeze on tax-free pension allowances, which has been blamed for driving thousands of doctors and other profession­als out of the workforce in later life.

The Chancellor is also set to expand existing ‘mid-life MOTs’ to include pension advice for people considerin­g retiring early, amid fears that thousands are quitting the workforce without enough savings to fund their retirement.

The Treasury is also drawing up proposals to offer more childcare support to low-income parents in the hope of making it more attractive for stay-at-home mums to return to the workplace.

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