Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to remove benefits for individuals who refuse job offers after 12 months of unemployment.

Sunak, outlining his plans for welfare reform if the Conservatives secure victory in the next general election, emphasised that “unemployment support should be a safety net, never a choice,” asserting his commitment to ensuring that “hard work is always rewarded.”

The proposed reforms include tightening the work capability assessment to expect employment-seeking from those with less severe conditions, conducting a review of the fit note system to focus on individuals’ capabilities, and introducing a new fraud bill aimed at treating benefit fraud akin to tax fraud.

Sunak justified these measures, stating they were not intended to reduce the generosity of the benefits system but rather to address eligibility criteria and tailor support to individual needs.

He insisted that it was unfair to burden taxpayers with supporting those capable of working but choosing not to.

Mishandling of the NHS

However, the Labour Party criticised the government’s focus, attributing the economic inactivity to the Tories’ mishandling of the NHS, which they claimed had left many individuals “locked out” of employment opportunities. Alison McGovern, Acting Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, accused the government of lacking a concrete plan to tackle unemployment effectively.

Similarly, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey condemned Sunak’s speech as “desperate,” asserting that the Prime Minister was attempting to deflect blame for his administration’s failures onto the British people.

Disability charity Scope echoed these sentiments, denouncing the proposed measures as a “full-on assault on disabled people” and warning of the potential destitution they could cause. James Taylor, Director of Strategy at Scope, expressed concern over the impact the reforms could have on vulnerable individuals already grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.

The announcement comes amid growing concerns over the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of people facing long-term unemployment and the associated challenges. As the debate over welfare reform intensifies, the government faces mounting pressure to strike a balance between incentivising work and providing support for those in need.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.