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“Rishi Sunak Vows to Tackle Rising Welfare Costs and Reform System in Moral Mission Ahead of General Election”

Conservative Party Focuses on Benefit Reforms in Election Campaign, Promising to Cut Welfare Costs by £12bn a Year

The Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has announced their plan to make benefit reforms a central focus of their election campaign. This comes after a difficult week for the party and aims to turn things around and address the soaring costs of welfare.

The party’s proposal includes a £700m investment in NHS mental health treatment, which aims to make talking therapies more accessible to 500,000 additional people by 2030. The plan also includes measures previously announced, such as removing benefits for individuals who have not found employment after 12 months. This is in response to the record high number of economically inactive working-age individuals, a trend largely attributed to early retirements and individuals waiting for NHS treatment for long-term health conditions.

The Conservative Party believes that the 40% increase in the number of people out of work, from two million to 2.8 million, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic is unsustainable. They estimate that the cost of providing benefits for working-age individuals with health conditions could reach as high as £90bn by the end of the next parliament. A recent study also revealed that people in their 20s are more likely to be off work due to ill health compared to employees twice their age, with poor mental health being a driving factor.

The proposed increase in access to talking therapies is a 50% rise from the previously planned expansion of 384,000, announced at the 2023 Autumn Statement. In addition to this, the Conservative Party plans to reform the disability benefits system and target it towards those most in need, as well as tightening the criteria for work capability assessments. They also aim to transfer the responsibility of issuing sick notes from GPs to specialist work and health professionals. Further pledges include tougher benefit sanction rules, speeding up the rollout of universal credit, and cracking down on benefit fraud.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated, “Reforming welfare is a moral mission. Work is a source of dignity, purpose, and hope, and I want everyone to be able to overcome whatever barriers they might face to living independent, fulfilling lives. That’s why we have announced a significant increase in mental health provision, as well as changes to ensure those who can work, do work.”

The government previously announced these back-to-work welfare reforms in their autumn statement in November, which was met with criticism from charities for “demonizing disabled people.” Despite this, Rishi Sunak has doubled down on the pledge, recently calling for an end to the “sick note culture” and shifting the focus to “what people can do with the right support in place, rather than what they can’t do.”

This latest announcement comes after a difficult week for the prime minister, who faced backlash for his early exit from an international D-Day commemoration event. The Labour Party, led by Sir Keir Starmer, has criticized the Conservative Party’s “reheated pledges,” and is instead focusing on prison overcrowding in their own campaign. A spokesperson for Labour stated, “This is the latest desperate announcement from Rishi Sunak, who has once again plucked numbers out of thin air in an attempt to disguise the fact that he has caused a spiraling benefits bill. These reheated pledges, old policies, and vague promises will not get Britain healthy or benefits under control, and do nothing to solve the fact that £10bn of taxpayers’ money was lost to benefit fraud just last year.”

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