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Rishi Sunak Targets Welfare Reform as Moral Mission Amid Election Campaign, Promises £700m Mental Health Boost

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has declared that overhauling the welfare system is a 'moral mission' as he commits to reducing the escalating expenses of benefits. He has unveiled proposals to expand the availability of counseling services to combat the increase in extended illnesses and to help more individuals return to employment.

Political journalist @fayebrownSky

Sunday, June 9, 2024, 07:

The Conservative Party plans to focus on welfare policy changes in their upcoming election strategy this Sunday, as Rishi Sunak aims to recover from a challenging week.

The party has pledged to reduce welfare expenses by £12 billion annually by the end of the upcoming legislative term, implementing strategies designed to facilitate employment reentry.

The strategy involves allocating £700 million towards NHS mental health services, aiming to provide an additional 500,000 individuals with access to counseling and psychotherapy by the year 2030.

Additionally, it encompasses previously declared actions like eliminating advantages for individuals who decline employment after a year.

The count of individuals in their working years who are not participating in the economy has reached unprecedented levels after the pandemic.

The pattern is believed to be largely influenced by individuals who have opted for early retirement and those with chronic health issues awaiting NHS treatment.

The Conservative Party has declared that the surge in unemployment from two million to 2.8 million—a 40% rise—since the onset of COVID, is untenable.

The report suggests that the expense of offering benefits to working-age individuals with health issues may reach up to £90 billion by the conclusion of the upcoming parliamentary session.

A new research indicates that individuals in their twenties are more prone to take sick leave compared to workers in their forties, primarily due to mental health issues.

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The expansion of availability for talking therapies will rise by 50%, adding to the previously announced increase of 384,000 in the 2023 Autumn Statement.

Additionally, the Conservatives plan to overhaul the disability benefits system, aiming to focus on individuals who are most in need by implementing stricter standards for work capability evaluations.

The proposals also entail transferring the duty of providing medical certificates from general practitioners to dedicated occupational health experts.

The Conservative Party pledges to enforce stricter rules on welfare penalties, accelerate the implementation of universal credit, and intensify efforts to combat welfare fraud.

Further Reading: Reforms Aimed at Getting People Back to Work Accused of Targeting Disabled Individuals

Over 20% of Adults of Working Age are Not Actively Seeking Employment

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated, "Transforming welfare is a moral endeavor. Employment offers dignity, meaning, and optimism, and I aim for everyone to surmount any obstacles that hinder their ability to lead autonomous, satisfying lives."

"That's the reason we've declared a substantial enhancement in mental health services, alongside modifications to guarantee that those who are able to work, indeed work."

In its November autumn statement, the government reintroduced welfare reforms as a central focus, which drew criticism from charities for allegedly stigmatizing disabled individuals.

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Mr. Sunak has reinforced his commitment, recently advocating for an end to the "sick note culture" and expressing his desire to concentrate on "what people are capable of with appropriate support, instead of what they are unable to do."

The recent statement follows a challenging week for the prime minister, who was caught up in a controversy over his premature departure from an international D-Day remembrance ceremony.

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The Labour Party, dedicating its Sunday campaign efforts to addressing issues of prison overcrowding, lambasted the Conservatives for recycling old promises.

A representative from Sir Keir Starmer's party commented, "This recent statement by Rishi Sunak is yet another attempt to distract from his role in inflating the benefits bill, using seemingly arbitrary figures."

"Recycled commitments, outdated strategies, and ambiguous assurances are insufficient for improving the health of Britain or managing welfare costs effectively. Moreover, these measures fail to address the issue that last year alone, £10 billion of taxpayers' funds were squandered due to benefit fraud."

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