UK considers tightening its disability benefits system

By Thomson Reuters Apr 29, 2024 | 2:30 AM

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is considering making changes to disability and mental health benefit payments as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak aims to slow the rise in the government’s welfare bill and get more people into work.

Ahead of a national election expected later this year that opinion polls show he is likely to lose, Sunak wants to appeal to core Conservative voters by warning that future rises in welfare spending are fiscally unsustainable.

Work and pensions minister Mel Stride said on Monday that the government was starting a 12-week consultation on personal independence payments (PIP), a cash benefit paid to 3.3 million people with health problems and disabilities in Britain.

Projections from official budget forecasters show that PIP payments are set to rise by 63% over the next five years, or 13 billion pounds ($16.3 billion) a year, Stride said.

“There is a sustainability issue here that we need to have a grown-up conversation about,” he told Times Radio.

“We should be thinking about and examining the possibility that we take a different approach than straightforward cash benefits paid.”

Sunak, who faces the prospect of heavy losses in local elections on Thursday, has said that, if re-elected in the next national election, he wants to do more on welfare reform.

He said earlier in April that the government would consider tightening rules for long-term sick leave to reverse a rise in the number of Britons who have permanently dropped out of the workforce.

($1 = 0.7991 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by William Schomberg)