Mel Stride, the secretary of state for work and pensions set out his vision for the future of claimants in a speech to the Conservative Party conference today.  It was a speech which some will regard as filled with optimism and others will hear as laden with threats. 

When combined with Chancellor’s Jeremy Hunt’s reference to claimants placed in the LCWRA group as “100,000 people [who] are leaving the labour market every year for a life on benefits”, the threat seems loud and clear.

Update 04.10.23 :  prime minister Rishi Sunak has also now launched an attack on claimants in the LCWRA group, see below.

Stride spoke of making far more demands on claimants at risk of long-term unemployment, with more frequent work-focused requirements and firm sanctions.

He praised the ‘heroes’ who work in Jobcentres but said they need private sector style incentives to get more people into work.

He talked about the pain it causes him personally to think of sick and disabled people being denied the opportunity to work.

He explained that there is to be reform of sickness and disability benefits assessments and a revolution in the support provided to move more disabled claimants into work.

Finally, he spoke of human beings freed to be the best they can be by being supported back into work.

Firm sanctions and private sector style bonuses

Stride told the conference that government faces new challenges:

Just as the world of work is rapidly changing, so the ways in which we help people into work must change too.

 So we are trialling a far more demanding approach with claimants at particular risk of becoming long-term unemployed.

 This includes far more frequent work-focused requirements, with firm sanctions for those who fail to fulfil their commitments, and more support for those who need it.

 And we’ve been testing new incentive schemes for our best performing Job Centre teams. Recognising and rewarding those heroes who go above and beyond to improve the lives of others.

 The sort of approach that is common practice in successful parts of the private sector. And if its good enough for the private sector then it should be good enough for the public sector too.

Assessment reform and revolutionary support

He went on to talk about “the number of people who are inactive due to ill health or disability” and underlined the government’s intention to reform sickness and disability benefits assessments:

Having a job isn’t just good for your finances – it’s good for your mental and physical wellbeing too.

 And it pains me to think there are so many people being left on benefits who want to work and who could be thriving in work. It’s a waste of human potential . . .

So we are reforming our sickness and disability benefit assessments for the first time in over a decade, to take account of the modern workplace.

 That is going hand-in-hand with a revolution in the employment support we’re providing for people with health problems and disabilities.

 That’s why at the last Budget we unveiled £2 billion of investment, including a game-changing new programme, Universal Support, which will place people into work, with a personal adviser providing wraparound support for up to a year while they find their feet.

 We know it’s an approach that works because we have already been delivering it, including a trailblazing scheme in the West Midlands, Thrive Into Work, led by their excellent Conservative Mayor, Andy Street.

 I have seen first-hand how they are integrating healthcare and employment support.

 And as we roll out Universal Support, we will be changing lives right across the country, so whatever your situation, if you can work you will be supported to do so.

 And if you are on benefits and able to work, you will be expected to do so.

Human beings made free by work

Stride concluded with what he clearly considered to be a rousing vision of a future in which many more sick and disabled claimants will be given the gift of work:

Low unemployment. Improving economic activity. Rising employment.

 These achievements don’t happen by accident. They result from the endeavours of millions of people right up and down our country and from the tireless work of those at DWP day in day out, who make the gift of work a reality for thousands of men and women.

 And that, Conference, is what we will continue to do.

 For every person supported back into work, there’s a human being who is better off.

 A human being freed to be the best that they can be.

 A society made alive and whole.

 That is truly something to inspire.

 Conference, we are getting Britain working.

 Life on benefits

Earlier in the day, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was much more blunt in his disapproval of claimants who, rather than working, choose “a life on benefits” by being assessed by the DWP as too ill or disabled to be able to manage even work-related activities.

He told the conference:

I’m proud to live in a country where, as Churchill said, there’s a ladder everyone can climb but also a safety net below which no one falls.

 That safety net is paid from tax. And that social contract depends on fairness to those in work alongside compassion to those who are not.

 That means work must pay… and we’re making sure it does. From last year, for the first time ever, you can earn £1,000 a month without paying a penny of tax or national insurance.

 But despite that even when companies are struggling to find of workers, around 100,000 people are leaving the labour market every year for a life on benefits.

 Mel Stride gets this 100% which is why he’s replacing the Work Capability Assessment.

 And we’re going to look at the way the sanctions regime works. It isn’t fair that someone who refuses to look seriously for a job gets the same as someone trying their best.

Are people three times sicker today?

Finally, in his own speech to conference on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak cast doubt on whether claimants in the LCWRA group really are unable to work:

We must end the national scandal… 

…where our benefits system declares that more than two million people of working age are incapable of actually doing any. 

That’s not Conservative, that’s not compassionate—that must change.  

In 2011, one in five of those doing a work capability assessment were deemed unfit to work. 

But the latest figure now stands at 65 per cent. 

Are people three times sicker today than they were a decade ago? 

No, of course not. 

It’s not good for our economy… 

…it is not fair on taxpayers who have to pick up the bill… 

…and it’s a tragedy for those two million people being written off. 

I refuse to accept this and that is why we are going to change the rules so that those who can work, do work. 

It's not too late to respond

For anyone who doubted that the Conservatives were serious about slashing the work capability assessment to make it much harder to be found to have LCWRA, these speeches should provide absolute certainty.

And, until 30 October, it’s not too late to tell them what you think of their plans by taking part in the consultation.

You can also visit our WCA Changes Latest News page for updates on what's happening to the WCA.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Arianelle · 2 months ago
    And yes I know that comment will probably not be published it just made me feel a hell of a lot better!! How sad is that!!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Arianelle · 2 months ago
    If only those pompous out of touch and heartless picks had choked on their silver  spoon!!!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jim Dear · 7 months ago
    So Mel Stride quotes" Having a job isn’t just good for your finances – it’s good for your mental and physical wellbeing too" & pip is apparintly for people in work & out.
    I am a 60 year penetrating (TBI) survivor with a son of 24 who is diagnosed ASD. In the past month my son has finally found work at a Garage thanks to a garage that has emplayed previous ASD colleagues & taken on previous challenger teenagers  for work experience from schools. Things have really gone up at last for my son, Yet as he is now earning his pips has been stopped yet ASD is a life term condition.
    I can not write more as to I am feeling as it drains my own head injury attributes..
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Clare · 8 months ago
    Having been medically retired from the benefits fraud department Due to not being able to work for them due to incapacity Then they put me in the LCWRA group Now the same DWP who decided to pay me a  small medical retirement pension Have now to decide if I now should stay in the LCWRA group or not I do not know if I should laugh or cry But the worst thing is the stress and anxiety caused by these attempts to reduce the benefit bill Which then feeds this constant narrative that I am unworthy and a malingerer Which then permeates through society Which means it feels ok for many to disability bash As we are seen as a drain on society Not as individuals who have and do contribute to society in many ways which includes paying taxes  Please note This  comment has taken me 30 minutes to write  It is not easy for me to do but I do want to contribute 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Anne · 7 months ago
      @Clare Clare, I’m so much on the same page as you I have to dictate text send messages so they may not work. I was a frontline benefit supervisor and county manager at the age of 18 and then became territorial executive officer if you recall what that means and then a special investigator in benefit fraud Find a humiliation find it humiliating to draw my £41 a week. Yes civil service pension and £40 a month local pension doing the same job as part of internal audit. I would love it if you could PM me direct 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      John · 8 months ago
      @Clare So glad you did take the 30 minute’s to write your post because because it’s all true and very well put! I live in constant fear of losing my benefit or being sanctioned (which I have been in the past) and now it looks like there’s going to be a whole new wave of bullying and blackmail by the government I’m so scared! I genuinely cannot work and already felt intimidated before all this 
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    Andrew · 8 months ago
    And which jobcentre do these 'heroes' work at - not any I've visited! Unfailingly unhelpful, disrespectful, and bullying.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Kat Rehman · 8 months ago
      @Andrew Agreed Andrew. I worked without claiming for 13 years; I had to move from England to family in Wales after being illegally evicted 2ce in less than 4 years; I secured part time work within 3 weeks of arriving in Wales; finally secured social housing February this year and my new work coach, who's half my age and had never met me before, told me benefits weren't a lifestyle choice! I still don't know how I swallowed that without a sarcastic reply 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Andrew · 8 months ago
    If the WCA is getting tougher and reports routinely falsified in order to deny people benefits, how come there has been a massive increase in claimants found unable to work? I would have thought the opposite applied. Maybe the actual number found unfit for work would be even higher still if assessments were carried out fairly and accurately. Or could it be that the jobs available are unsuitable for many with disabilities? If you were an employer, would you choose to take on someone with health problems who might prove to be off sick frequently, despite being keen to work, or an employee without a record of absence? All this effort to push unsuitable people into jobs is pointless unless it is a new job that is being created.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    a.mick · 8 months ago
    heroes for meeting their monthly sanction quota. disgisting
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Bluebee · 8 months ago
    My daughter has been disabled since birth when she was diagnosed at 18 months with learning difficulties ands mild cerebral palsy and later on diagnosed as being autistic. My Daughter as had many reviews since becoming adult age she is now 40yrs old and o her last review two years we received the results of her review which said that she will no longer have to undergo anymore reviews which are very stressful for her because of her conditions we have to fill in the review form for her and we also have to accompany her to her review because she can’t represent or get there by herself 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Kat Rehman · 8 months ago
    Since the retirement age has risen so much, obviously more people are too sick to work especially those in manual jobs, caring, cleaning, etc! Their bodies wear out, or they have heart attacks, cancer, strokes...are the government really too thick to realise that??
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Chicaboom · 8 months ago
    Its was reported that 430,000 patients with covid have long covid two years after infection, (including front line doctors who have been denied benefits) Were the Gov caught out with long covid? Does that account for the rise of disabled people, and does it explain why they are suddenly announcing  stopping the substantial risk rules, as many will no doubt be claiming under that rule?
    Is this the governments way of finishing off the (genuinely very sick people), they didnt manage to kill when they allowed infected people into care homes without testing them? 
    Why are we managed by such ******* morons? (Red and Blue)
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Eva · 8 months ago
    It's basically forcing people who are sick to work . Nasty , vile and fascist way.
    They've given away billions of taxpayers money and are vilifying sick and disabled.  

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      John · 8 months ago
      @Eva Absolutely well said Eva and how brilliantly described 
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    Bill Kruse · 8 months ago
    Sunak asks "Are people three times sicker today than they were a decade ago?" to which the answer clearly is "Of course they are due to a decade of underfunding of the NHS, effectively sabotaging the mechanism which makes them well when they get ill".  
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stephen Owens · 8 months ago
    A sad fact of life when times are hard, someone has to be blamed, best place to pin the blame is to pick an easy target, sick, disabled, dependant etc then throw in the words lazy workshy parasite and then the demonisation process is complete.It is a shame that so many people in this country are not totally in touch with the uniqueness of disability my daughter age 39 would tell you she can make a sandwich but I would defy anyone to actually eat it, her face to face PIP assessment went really well when we were able to demonstrate her inabilties rather than try to defend her disabillities. Some years ago the Jobcentre person asked her what sort of a job she would like, she answered I want to play for Liverpool with Michael Owen and low and behold that was the end of her job search. Disabled from birth, never missed a day of her special education and can't read or write and they will still go through the motions of trying to find a job for her. I suppose it is so they can tick their box.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    BETHAN Vaughan · 8 months ago
    Not going to work
    People who have disabilities should NOT BE JUDGED AND LABELED I have looked for work but because of my insurance I can't work 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    J.Dupre · 8 months ago
    Jobcentre workers with incentives to get people back to work cause enormous stress and helplessness  because they aren't trained in the conditions. They are not doctors and the incentives make them relentless. Many people with long term conditions don't have any medical support so cant improve. Gps are over worked and just prescribe drugs. 
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    Broken · 8 months ago
    Has there been any risk assessment at all to what effects these changes will have on disabled people? 

    Have they learned nothing from the deaths of sanctioned claimants who died with no food. 

    It’s sick that this criminal government can try and cover up the billions they have lost to fake contracts by taking support from the least able to cope. 
    Liz Truss lost the country billions in just a few days. Priti Patel illegally had 13 secret meetings with a foreign government which is treason but she was allowed back in to the benches.
    Now labour are trying to take Tory voters with the same cruel soundbites. 

    We had a pandemic. The NHS is on its knees. Mental health support is almost non existent. And they want to know why numbers are up? 

    Where is this consultation that ends on 30th October? 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Allan · 8 months ago
      @Broken They haven't lost this billions they have stolen it given to palls 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Tc · 8 months ago
    Jeremy Hunt started the dismantling of the NHS. Now he wants to do the same with Sickness and Disability Benefits.
    Result of his endeavours? Folks like me, who start having minor health problems, but can’t get beyond Primary Care assessment by GPs, because of the backlog waiting to see consultants.  Currently waiting for 3 different consultant appointments. Waiting time so far has been 18 months for first, 11 months for second, and the more recent ‘urgent’ referral was told to phone if I didn’t hear within a week. When I phoned I wasn’t even asked my name. Just referral reference number. Was informed the wait for appointment would be over a year.
    Perhaps sort the health backlogs, first, Tory Government, before causing more distress to those of us who have no choice but to live on Sickness benefits. Oh and cut the negative rhetoric, that just encourages some media to encourage the haters. As if anybody would ‘choose’ a lifestyle such as we sick and disabled people have to live.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Caiti · 7 months ago
      @Tc NHS in Wales is Labour run and believe me the waiting lists for treatment are far worse and as for trying to get a doctors appointment.....well, I tried and tried and was finally told after explaining my symptoms on a particular day to go straight to A&E. I am now finally being assessed and monitored by an excellent Cardiac Team. Al this could have been avoided if I had been seen by the GP earlier.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Broken · 8 months ago
      @Tc Exactly. Why don’t we start talking about making cuts to MP pay and expenses as it’s making MP’s lazy. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sandra Davis · 8 months ago
    We have Haemophilia - a bleeding disorder ! 
    How is this expected to improve ? It won’t theirs no cure.
    How many jobs are their available to work from home that will pay the rent ? 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Lynne Davison · 8 months ago
    I am assuming the comments from the government only refer to ESA and UC as PIP is not means tested and also people in work can and do receive PIP because it is based on how it affects day to day.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Adolf · 8 months ago
      @Lynne Davison Good points Lynne. If the Tories somehow are returned to Government, after the next election, with any kind of working majority, do you think they will be emboldened enough to give PIP closer scrutiny? They are already bent on decreasing the success rates for PIP, with ever more difficult, onerous, assessments, with upcoming changes to the process. The system will not stand any more in my opinion. The writing is on the wall. The rich do not generally like paying tax for "scroungers"(not my words), but the sort of banter, you can read in any Tory, 'so called' newspaper!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Lynne Davison · 8 months ago
    The Prime Minister says - "Are people three times sicker today than they were a decade ago?

    No, of course not. " I would argue that potentially that YES they are what with Long Covid being a new feature and the fact that more people are suffering from mental health problems along with the millions of people with neurodiverse conditions that are undiagnosed and have been masking for so long that they are in burnout and struggling to continue to do so.

    There has been a major decline in adult mental health services and a disjoint between NHS and Social Care which was highlighted in the pandemic - need 
    1) better funding of Social Care and Mental Health Services for adults
    2) an holistic and joined up service with NHS and Social Care
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