DWP is planning to force yet more sick and disabled people into work

Mel Stride and the DWP logo
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is planning on forcing more chronically ill and disabled people back to work. That’s according to its new boss –  who seems to be ignoring the fact that there aren’t any jobs out there for them.

DWP: too many sick people

Mel Stride is the new work and pensions secretary – and he’s already making his plans for the DWP clear. As the Telegraph reported on Wednesday 30 November, Stride gave evidence to the work and pensions select committee. He was talking about how the DWP needed to get more people into work – with no mention of the fact that successive Tories have trashed the UK economy. Stride noted that the pension age would probably have to go up again – something much of the corporate media were quick to report on. But he also has chronically ill and disabled people in his sights.

The Telegraph reported that:

No 10 has become increasingly alarmed by the rise in the number of economically inactive people since the pandemic.

Nine million people aged 16-64 now fall into this category. As the Canary previously reported, this figure has increased partly due to a rise in the number of chronically ill and disabled people. There could be a link between the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, long Covid, and the increase. This is because 363,000 more people are now off due to ill-health than before the pandemic. Regardless of this, the fact people are too sick or impaired to work clearly won’t stop Stride from trying to force them to.


The Telegraph said that:

Stride is carrying out a review into how to get many of those [economically inactive] people back into the workforce amid record vacancies. He told the Commons work and pensions committee there was an “overarching case” for setting ambitious targets for doing so.

Read on...

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It also noted that:

Stride said his department used other targets, such as on getting more disabled people into work, which was “a very useful metric”.

However, there are several problems with this – the first being the number of job vacancies, despite what the Telegraph claimed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in November 2022 there were 1.225m job vacancies. The problem is, there are 1.264 million unemployed people (those who claim out of work social security). You don’t need to be an economist to work out that there aren’t enough jobs for all the unemployed people – let alone anyone else. Plus, the redundancy rate has started to rise again too. With the UK recession set to last into 2023, the number of job vacancies isn’t going to improve anytime soon. However, the fact that there are no jobs for chronically ill and disabled people probably won’t stop Stride, either. This is despite the evidence that his department making unwell people work just makes them more unwell – or worse.

Forcing chronically ill and disabled people into work

The DWP has a long history of forcing chronically ill and disabled people into work, and rarely successfully. For example, as the Canary previously reported, the Personalisation Pathways back to work programme trial in the 2010s was an abject failure – with the majority of people not getting a job or seeing their lives improve. The DWP’s use of sanctions against chronically ill and disabled people is another area where the department has faced criticism. As the Canary wrote in 2018, a report by think tank the Economic and Social Research Council stated:

that “welfare conditionality did very little to move disabled people closer to the labour market”. It said the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) was seen as “uncaring” and “insensitive”, leading to “inappropriate outcomes” for disabled people. The report noted sanctions generally triggered “profoundly negative outcomes”, exacerbating physical and mental ill health. The report said compulsory work training (‘workfare’) was of “poor quality” and “limited use”.

However, at its worst the DWP forcing sick and disabled people into work has led to deaths.

DWP: blood on its hands

Between December 2011 and February 2014, 90 people a month died after the DWP told them they were fit for work. Furthermore, between March 2014 and February 2017, 10 people a day died after the DWP put them in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). This meant it told them they were healthy enough to start moving towards work. The latest figures show that the department’s approach to chronically ill and disabled people hasn’t changed. As the Canary reported, the DWP is already putting more people in the Universal Credit group that’s the equivalent of the ESA WRAG.

Stride’s plans to force more people into work are hardly new. However, what they do show is that the DWP has failed to learn any lessons over the past 15-odd years. This is probably because it institutionally doesn’t care. However, Stride’s comments should ring major alarm bells. The historical evidence shows that any attempt to force chronically ill and disabled people into work often ends in disaster. Any fresh push by the DWP to do this must be resisted – because few things have been more heinous in recent times than successive, capitalist governments’ drives to make people work when they really shouldn’t be.

Featured image via Chris McAndrew – Wikimedia, resized to 770×403 under licence CC BY 3.0, and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. DWP is planning to force yet more sick and disabled people into work
      I will Just say this
      All the mess with D.W.P. is because their U-Credit Scam Benefits is not means tested a fact. All Govt M.P. /Minister are on good wages paid by us taxpayer a fact.
      Now to Govt members
      Can Sunak -Hunt –New D.W.P. Puppet Minister-M.P.
      Tell us public how much have they all voted yes to increase their wages NEXT years?
      what % are they asking of us taxpayer to keep their life style safe 6%-8%-10% 18%-16% and because Govt members are seeking a new pay rise the rest of us have to suffer with low pay rises NOW.
      (This is not right Tory party)

      The strikes now going on should tell this greedy Tory Govt public have had all their going to take on low pay so,
      (PAY UP Tory Govt or bring U.K. to a full stop!)

      You miss handling of our public taxpayer money is Tory Party fault ONLY. Has they are the party in full power running our country into the ground and flushing it down the toilet now for their personal gains only.
      So, voter next G.E. all voters that are ill health /disabled/mental ill/
      low paid that use benefit top up when voting remember which Govt party is screwing you all out of a good life/shoving you into poverty so they can have their large wage increase next year in Govt party jobs you must suffer for them to benefits ONLY WHY?

    2. Recognition of the spread of Long Covid invalidates Stride’s approach. we’re nearing a time in which the majority of people won’t be in the labour market, at least, not as we know it. This is what needs to be prepared for.

    3. So the Rich Tory Murder Road continues onward over the horizon into the Graveyard of the Sick and Disabled and Elderly. Ever since the mastermind of the Downing Street Final Solution a complete Sociopath George Osborne uttered his phrase of HATE why should the Hard Working Taxpayers shoulder the burden of the Work-shy and Shirkers. Or words to that effect the Poor Unemployed the Elderly and Disabled the Homeless had their fate sealed all their rights were stripped away and the DWP Gestapo tactics began. The vociferous plea for Neighbours to Spy on Neighbours a despicable act from any Government and only ever used in Fascist Totalitarian Dystopian States. it beggars belief what the English have allowed the Tory Monsters to get away with the Systematic destruction of all UK Citizens Rights not just the Racist wasteland that is now England. They have Paid the Rich your Hard earned Taxpayers Pounds for 12 Years they have been dismantling the NHS the Welfare State removing money from the NHS Welfare Social Care Schools Et al and giving it ALL TO THE RICH. Remember We are all in it together! My Arse

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