Rishi Sunak to reduce benefits for long-term sick unless they seek to work from home

Rishi Sunak will threaten to cut benefit payments to hundreds of thousands of people with mobility and mental health problems unless they find work they can do from home.

The prime minister will tell them to get a job or face a £4,680-a-year cut in benefits if they don't try to put more people back into work, according to reports.

It comes as part of a drive to reduce the government's welfare bill, with ministers insisting many on benefits can no longer be ‘written off' as unable to work thanks to the post-Covid spread of telecommuting.

In September, Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Strid launched a consultation to review the government's work capacity assessments, which determine whether someone is eligible to claim Universal Credit instead of working.

The consultation promised to reflect “the rise of flexible and home working and better employer support for disabled and disabled people”.

At the time, Mr Sunak said he wanted to “help people take advantage of modern work environments”.

The response to the consultation is due to be published alongside the government's autumn statement on Wednesday, according to The times.

Universal Credit claimants who cannot walk 50 meters unaided do not need to look for work in the ‘limited ability for work and work-related activity' category. However, that descriptor is expected to be removed, it said.

This means that from 2025, hundreds of thousands of claimants will be affected by the carrot and stick approach.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week warned as part of a wider crackdown that those “struggling” for benefits would lose benefits if they refused to take a job.

Applicants who are deemed able to work but do not take steps to find work will be cut off from access to benefits such as free prescription and dental care, help from energy suppliers and cheaper mobile phone packages.

The chancellor said the move, which began just days after the Autumn Statement, was necessary to stop “anyone who chooses to hang on to taxpayers' hard work”.

But the plans have been condemned as abhorrent by senior Tories and potentially illegal by the head of Britain's equality watchdog.

said former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine The independent that ministers should not “use the health service as a sanction”.

Tory minister Laura Trott on Tuesday rejected suggestions that plans to encourage people with mental health or mobility problems to work from home are unimportant.

said the Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance Sky News: “If you can act as an authority, you should work, and that's what the government believes. This has been the thrust of all our policies.

“Of course, there should be support for people to help them work or help them with issues they're facing, but ultimately, there's a duty on citizens that if they can go to work, that's what you should do. “

Ministers are also finalizing a package of tax cuts ahead of Wednesday's Autumn Statement, with Mr Hunt expected to announce a cut in income tax or national insurance.

Ms Trott said the economy had turned around and the government “can now talk about tax cuts”.