WORK transforms lives: it gives people purpose, lifelong friends and all the rewards of earning a living. It also helps to keep us fit – both mentally and physically, writes MP Mel Stride.
The most common reason for people being out of work right now is long-term sickness – there is currently one person not working due to long-term sickness for every 13 people who are working.
Within this economically inactive group there will be people who are seriously ill and are either physically or mentally incapable of working. But there are also people who want to get back to work and will succeed in doing so with the right support.
As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions I have visited Jobcentres up and down the country and spoken with people who are managing physical and mental conditions and have thrived after finding the right job.
I am making it my mission to help more people back into the workplace by focusing on what they can do – not what they can’t.
My department is establishing an employment support system that works for them, taking forward ambitious reforms to remove the barriers to work that people with health conditions can face.
This builds on the progress we’ve made to dismantle Labour’s unfair system, which shockingly saw more than a million people trapped on welfare for almost a decade.
There are now almost four million more people in employment than in 2010 and someone who takes a full-time job on the National Living Wage now earns nearly twice as much as they would have thirteen years ago (just over £20,000 compared to just over £11,000).
This increase far exceeds inflation. This financial incentive to work has helped to bring unemployment down from the 7.9% it was in 2010 to the 4.4% it is now. And that is in despite of a global pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacting businesses across the country.
But I want to go further.
No one should be left behind. That is why my department is investing an extra £2 billion to help those with long-term illnesses and disabilities get into work.
Work coaches share this mission, so we’re funding more coaches with extra time to support people who need it.
We know that staying in work with the right help is better for many people’s recovery and long-term prospects than falling out of employment entirely.
So we’re looking at how we use conversations with health professionals to better support individuals to remain in the workforce. And we’re helping employers keep their staff healthier and remove obstacles for those with health conditions or disabilities.
Drawing from the best models around the world, we are looking at incentives like tax breaks for businesses that expand their occupational health provision.
Growing the British workforce will put more money directly into people’s pockets. It will transform lives. And it will grow the economy.
► More from Mel at www.melstridemp.com or follow him on X (Twitter) @MelJStride.