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What do the Work and Pensions Secretary’s priorities tell us about the new UK Government’s plans for supporting people into work? 

15 July 2024

Last week, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Liz Kendall, spoke at a Job Centre in Leeds. She outlined how Labour’s Back to Work Plan and tackling economic inactivity are central to the new Government’s focus on driving economic growth.

Soon after the election, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, spoke about how growth would be the Labour Government’s national mission. It was then the Health Secretary’s turn to describe how he would lead the Department for Health and Social Care to support this mission. The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Liz Kendall, has now set out her plans too.

In the face of rising numbers of people out of work, including because of long-term illnesses, Liz Kendall has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to its manifesto Back to Work Plan.

The three measures announced by the Work and Pensions Secretary are:

  1. Merging Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service, to create a new national jobs and career service to help people into work.
  2. A new Youth Guarantee for 18-21 year olds, offering them greater opportunities around training, apprenticeships and support to find work.
  3. Giving more powers to local leaders to develop tailored work, health and skills plans, including to help disabled people and those with health conditions into work.

What does this mean for people living with muscle wasting and weakening conditions?

When the previous Conservative Government announced its similarly titled plan, we were concerned that some of the new employment and benefit related measures to bring people back into work may do more harm than good for some disabled people and people with long-term conditions.

We welcome the new Government’s approach to both improve people’s health and provide tailored employment support, including facilitating a more localised approach. However, we know people living with muscle wasting and weakening conditions face a range of challenges in accessing employment and remaining in work. Further action is needed to support our community in the workplace and balance their work with their health. Therefore, we urge the Government to deliver on its manifesto commitment and bring forward “a proper plan to support disabled people to work.”

There has also been limited discussion in the announcement and Labour’s manifesto plans, on how they will reform the social security system. The current system can be a complicated and distressing process. Another cause for concern is that Labour has not spoken in detail about potentially damaging plans first set out by the previous Conservative Government. These include reforms to the Work Capability Assessment and ideas for how to change Personal Independence Payment (PIP). We call on the Government to urgently clarify its position on these plans and begin a wider conversation around disability benefits, so that our community can get the support it needs every step of the way.

In April 2024, the previous Government unveiled plans to overhaul benefit payments which could affect more than three million disabled people, including the 110,000 people living with a muscle wasting and weakening condition. In the ongoing consultation about PIP, we’ll be voicing our concerns over the changes, and how this will impact people living with a neuromuscular condition. There is still time to take part in our survey to help shape what we say to the Government.

We will be watching closely to see the details of how the Government intends to deliver on its manifesto promises and whether this new administration is meeting the needs of people with muscle wasting and weakening conditions.

Find out more about our work and where to get support

  • See our full general election 2024 manifesto to find out what else we’re calling on the new Government to deliver for people with muscle wasting and weakening conditions.  
  • Read more on our general election hub page to find out how you can engage with your local Member of Parliament.  
  • Find out more about our campaign work
  • Use our Employability Service which we run for anyone with a muscle wasting or weakening condition who is looking for employment advice and support.
  • Get support from our helpline
  • Email if you have any questions or would like to get involved. 
  • Sign up to our monthly e-newsletter and be the first to hear about our latest news, campaigns, research and ways you can support us.

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