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Montevideo, May 24th 2024 - 17:12 UTC

 

 

PM Sunak overhauls benefits system and tackle Britain's “sick note culture” in welfare reform

Thursday, April 25th 2024 - 05:47 UTC
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PM Sunak announced a review of the fit note system to stop people being written off as “not fit for work” by default PM Sunak announced a review of the fit note system to stop people being written off as “not fit for work” by default

In a major speech the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of welfare reform measures to tackle the unprecedented rise in economic inactivity and ensure the benefits system is better targeted at those who need it most.

The new plan for welfare will end Britain’s “sick note culture”, which has resulted in a significant rise in people being unnecessarily written off work and parked on welfare. 
It comes amid concerns that the fit note system has opened the floodgates for millions of people to be written off work and into welfare without getting the right support and treatment they might need to help them stay in work.

Data recently published by the NHS shows almost 11 million fit notes were issued last year, with an overwhelming 94% of those signed “not fit for work”. A large proportion of these are repeat fit notes which are issued without any advice, resulting in a missed opportunity to help people get the appropriate support they may need to remain in work.

To address this, the Prime Minister announced a review of the fit note system to stop people being written off as “not fit for work” by default and instead design a new system where each fit note conversation focuses on what people can do with the right support in place, rather than what they can’t do.

As part of this, the government will consider shifting the responsibility for issuing the fit note away from already stretched GPs, towards specialist work and health professionals who have the dedicated time and expertise to provide an objective assessment of someone’s ability to work and the tailored support they may need.  
 
A call for evidence will be published to seek responses from a diverse range of perspectives, including those with lived experiences, healthcare professionals and employers, both on how the current process works and how it can better support people with health conditions to start, stay, and succeed in work.

The Prime Minister said: “We don’t just need to change the sick note, we need to change the sick note culture so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t.  

“Building on the pilots we’ve already started we’re going to design a new system where people have easy and rapid access to specialized work and health support to help them back to work from the very first Fit Note conversation.  

“We’re also going to test shifting the responsibility for assessment from GPs and giving it to specialist work and health professionals who have the dedicated time to provide an objective assessment of someone’s ability to work and the tailored support they need to do so.”  

Before the pandemic, we had the second lowest inactivity rate in the G7, lower than France, Germany, Italy, USA and Canada. But since the pandemic, a significant number of working aged people have become inactive due to long term sickness which has in large part been driven by mental health conditions.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest there are currently 2.8 million people who are ‘economically inactive’ due to long-term sickness, a near-record high. Of those inactive due to long term sickness at the start of last year, 53% reported that they had depression, bad nerves or anxiety.

Categories: Politics, International.

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