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Sunak proposes changes to the welfare system but what does this mean for the future of disability employment?

The UK’s most vulnerable individuals require assistance, yet they encounter obstacles in accessing necessary financial support through the benefits system. With nearly half of the economically disadvantaged working-age adults being disabled, reforms are essential to ensure equitable access to support.

On April 19th, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced a plan to make changes to the welfare system, with a number of components to his plan. These include: removing benefits entirely from the long-term unemployed who don’t accept a job, being more ambitious in assessing people’s potential for work, putting work at the heart of welfare, and cracking down on fraud.

To assess this approach, let’s consider the experiences of some disabled individuals I know. Many have faced long-term unemployment despite actively seeking work. Disabled, long-term unemployed individuals often have valid reasons to decline job offers, including accessibility, accommodations, benefits, company culture, disability policies, and advancement opportunities. If these factors were favourable, more disabled individuals would likely be employed. Given the prevalence of disability among long-term unemployed individuals, should benefits be reconsidered? Government data from 2023 shows that 95.7% of those citing long-term sickness as their primary reason for economic inactivity were disabled.

With regards to assessing an individual’s potential for work, I have recently used a strengths profiling tool to assess my own potential for work. The profiling tool I used is called the Genius Finder Pro, which was designed by Genius Within. I believe it would greatly benefit the government to establish partnerships with organisations like Genius Within, which specialise in developing strategies to assist individuals in finding employment opportunities that align with their strengths and capabilities. In today’s world, we have access to a wide range of tools and technologies, including AI, virtual reality, behavioural assessments, psychometric tests, job trials, project-based assessments, and social network analysis. These resources offer new avenues for evaluating individuals’ capabilities in the workplace, thereby facilitating a deeper understanding of each person within organisations they seek to join potentially aiding in their retention.

The Prime Minister’s focus on work-centric welfare policies seems to overlook public sentiment. Proposed changes include mandating part-time workers to seek additional employment. These changes coincide with raising the Administrative Earnings Threshold (AET), affecting support levels based on earnings. I suggest considering initiatives like Genius Finder Pro, a profiling tool I won as a free prize at NAIDEX. Financial support for jobseekers seems unnecessary, unless for coaching or assessment services. However, concerns arise for vulnerable individuals, as those earning below AET face intensified job search requirements. Utilising funds for resources like ‘My Genius Finder’ memberships and assessments from organisations like Genius Within could empower individuals. While the government aims to transfer 180,000 Universal Credit claimants to intensive job search groups, doubts persist over the efficacy of job centre guidance, particularly for neurodivergent individuals. Collaboration with organisations like Genius Within is crucial to address these challenges effectively.

Tackling benefits fraud is a priority in upcoming plans, including the proposed Fraud Bill expected in the next parliamentary session. Government data from 2022-2023 reveals that approximately 3.6% (£8.3 billion) of total benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud and error. Despite reforms like the transition DLA to PIP in 2012, expenditure on disability benefits remained high, with an unexpected increase in claims. The Fraud Bill aims to strengthen government efforts against fraud, with projected savings of £600 million by 2028-29. Requiring evidence of disability or mental health conditions from benefit recipients could help prevent fraudulent claims, while ensuring support for those genuinely in need. It’s crucial to implement these changes effectively to target fraud while safeguarding access to support.

In conclusion, by proceeding thoughtfully and engaging in dialogue with those impacted by the proposed changes, while also collaborating with organisations dedicated to facilitating meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities, I am optimistic about the potential for a brighter future for countless individuals. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and prosperous society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive!


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