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Our response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement includes plans to encourage more disabled people to work from home.

Yesterday in Parliament the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt laid out his Autumn Statement including plans to encourage more disabled people to work from home. We know a lot of people with spinal cord injury will be worried by some of these announcements and here we lay out some of their proposed plans. It is important to note that these changes will not affect existing claims, it will apply to new claims or claims being updated only and won’t be implemented until 2025.

As part of their plans, the government wants to reduce the number of people who are declared unfit for work. These people receive benefits because they are unable to work due to health and they currently have no requirement to look for work to receive those benefits.

The government says that it wants the benefits system to better reflect the greater flexibility now available in the world of work since working from home became more popular.

BUT we know from our What Matters report that the world of work hasn’t changed so dramatically that thousands of people with spinal cord injury can suddenly work from home. In our 2023 report, 70% of over 900 people with SCI stated that access to vocational activities was an issue and 80% said finding an accessible home was a concern. We have seen an increase in calls to our support line of people finding themselves in totally unsuitable accommodation.  If people with SCI cannot even find a suitably adapted home of their own, how can they be expected to work from it?

In order to achieve their aim, the government has proposed changes to the work capability assessment and tougher measures on universal credit.

Under these changes, more people are expected to be declared fit for work and required to look for jobs or have their benefits cut. It will do this by changing some of the questions asked in the Work Capability Assessment.

BUT although many people with a spinal cord injury already work, we also know a good number of our members would struggle to return to full-time work, as managing a spinal cord injury is already equivalent to a full-time job, not just because of their mobility but the possible mental health impact and the critical need to manage their bowel, bladder, skin, nerve pain plus the extra time this all takes.

SIA are concerned that these proposals will be putting people with SCI under more pressure to find work, when they may not be ready – mentally and physically – or have the support they need. We have responded to the consultation on the Work Capability Assessment, and we await further details on these proposals as they are announced.

Meanwhile Laura Trott, chief secretary to the treasury said that disabled people must work from home to do ‘their duty,’ as part of proposed benefit changes announced yesterday.

BUT it is the duty of this government to be improving NHS services instead of forcing people with SCI into unsuitable employment. Mental health services need improving and levels of social care increasing as these are heavily relied upon so people don’t suffer serious health consequences that make employment impossible for them.

Finally, the government announced that benefits will increase by 6.7% from April 2023.

BUT this is overshadowed by the increase in the energy price cap announced today which begins in January with no new targeted support being announced in the Autumn Statement yesterday.

You can read the full Autumn Statement.

Autumn Statement 2023

If you are concerned about any of these issues around benefits and feel that you may missing out on valuable help you may find this benefits calculator of help.

Benefits Calculator

You can also contact the Aspire welfare benefits advice service which provides benefits advice and support specifically for people with spinal cord injury.