Plans for more punitive welfare unlikely to lead to better job outcomes for older workers
The government has announced reforms to the welfare system as part of the £2.5 billion back-to-work plan aiming to help more than 1 million people look for and stay in employment.
Ageing Better is worried that the reforms will not offer the tailored support that people aged 50 and above need to find the right work for them.
Our Work experts are concerned that the new reforms are too focussed on punitive action with too little focus on tailored support.
Under the proposals announced yesterday, the government said it was offering additional support for people with long-term health conditions, disabilities or long-term unemployment alongside tougher sanctions.
The proposals include exploring reforms of the fit note system, expansion of available treatment and employment support, and formal launch of the WorkWell service to help people start, stay and succeed in work.
Ministers said they will expand support for people with health conditions to stay in and find work, including increasing the number of people receiving NHS talking therapy by 384,000 over the next five years.
Mandatory work placement trials will be rolled out, meaning that claimants will be forced to accept a job or undertake work experience to improve their prospects, and those who fail to do so will be hit with “immediate sanction”.
Work coaches will be able to digitally track a claimant’s attendance at interviews and fairs.
Claimants deemed to have disengaged will be targeted with individuals on an open-ended sanction for more than six months and solely eligible for the Universal Credit standard allowance having their claims closed, ending their access to other benefits such as free prescriptions and legal aid.
Dr Emily Andrews, Deputy Director for Work at the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“In this year’s Spring Budget, the Chancellor rightly identified the value that older workers bring to the national economy.
“Over half of people out of work for health reasons are 50 and above and yet they currently achieve the worst outcomes from employment support services.
“If the government wants to ensure successful health and work interventions for this group and help more older workers back into the labour market, there needs to be a specific focus on the needs of the 50+ group.
“Given that older workers currently achieve such poor outcomes from back-to-work support, it is extremely unlikely that a more punitive regime will lead to better job outcomes for them.
“Instead, it risks pushing more into poverty.
“The increase of the state pension age to 66 saw poverty-rates among 65-year-olds double, deepening wealth inequality among the country’s older population.”
State of Ageing 2023
To learn more about the wealth inequalities amongst our ageing population, be sure to check out our State of Ageing report which launches next week.
The report itself will go live on our website on Tuesday and we will also be hosting a special launch event at City Hall, Royal Docks, London the following day which will feature a keynote speech by leading epidemiologist and author of The Health Gap, Professor Sir Michael Marmot.