Skip to main content

Government urged to stop vilifying the sick as unemployment soars

THE TUC has urged the government to stop punishing people who are too ill to work and deal with underlying causes.

New figures released by the Office for National Statistics revealed today that Britain’s unemployment has risen again to 4.3 per cent in the three months to March.

The data also shows that economic inactivity due to ill-health is up by a third compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

A TUC analysis shows that the number of women economically inactive as a result of ill-health has increased by more than 500,000 over the last five years to 1.54 million. 

Women economically inactive due to conditions like cancer increased by 15 per cent, while last year was the worst on record for cancer treatment waiting times.

The NHS waiting list for all treatments currently stands stubbornly high at 7.5 million.

Health Foundation data shows that public health funding per person is 27 per cent lower in real terms than in 2015/16. 

The TUC cited job quality as another key factor contributing to women on long-term sick leave.

Half a million more women than men earn below the real living wage. BME women are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts as white men. 

Last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a raft of new reforms to welfare benefits to punish those with ill health.

Rather than boosting access to treatment, he pledged to “tighten” work capability assessments and suggested that  “greater medical evidence” will be required to substantiate claims.

He revealed new trials will be underway that will put an end to GPs being allowed to sign patients off sick.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “Instead of stigmatising people who are too ill to work, the government should be laser-focused on improving access to treatment and preventing people from becoming too sick to work in the first place. 

“That means investing in local preventive services and bringing down our sky-high waiting lists.  

“It means dealing with the chronic staffing shortages across the NHS and social care that are delaying patients from being seen when they need to.”

Ben Harrison, from the Work Foundation think thank warned that the government’s focus on extending welfare sanctions “risks pushing these people even further away from the labour market.”

“And as one in three people (633,000) who are long-term sick report they want to work, the government must prioritise de-risking the journey back to secure and sustainable work for those people with tailored employment support.”


We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.



Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 6,509
We need:£ 11,492
16 Days remaining
Donate today