Astriid Statement on Autumn Budget 2023

Today, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced this year’s autumn statement. Among other things, this included the introduction of measures that will severely disadvantage disabled people and those with long-term conditions who are currently out of work and relying on social support.

Although Astriid exists to help talented people with long-term conditions access the world of work, we feel it’s important that we use our position at this time to make clear that not every person with such a condition is capable of work. This is not a matter of the individual’s levels of motivation or desire to be in work – often, people wish this for themselves more than anything. Introducing benefit sanctions is not the key to getting people into work, because penalising people will not magically make their health condition disappear. In fact, increasing the risk of disabled people living in poverty is more likely to exacerbate their level of illness. 

Astriid’s Response

In recent months, Astriid has submitted an evidence-based response to the proposed amendments to Work Capability Assessments and how they will impact individuals. In this post we have included some of the key points we made, and added further elaboration in light of the measures that have just been announced.

  • Reducing eligibility for the Limited Capacity for Work and Work Related Activity (LCWRA) and introducing tougher assessments further erodes the essential safety net of a population who are already at a severe financial disadvantage. The existing WCA descriptors are already a poor proxy for assessing work capability among people with Long-Term Conditions, and only account for fatigue in terms of mobility, rather than the broader disabling impact of energy impairment. The system does not take into account the core health-related barriers to work faced by this population.
  • Working from home is an important adjustment. 84% of our survey respondents said they need to work from home in order to manage their health condition, yet three quarters said that a lack of remote and flexible working opportunities is a key challenge in returning to work. Analysis of the jobs market by the CIPD bears this out: only 7% of jobs are advertised as fully remote. We welcome the call for more opportunities of this nature, but homeworking does not resolve every access barrier faced by people with long-term conditions. The assumption that finding a remote job is the solution to enabling more people to work reveals a startling lack of understanding about the unique challenges that this population must contend with in the world of work. In addition, research shows that disabled people are underrepresented in occupations where working from home is technologically viable. In fact, at present disabled people disproportionally work in low-paid, non-managerial, and routine occupations where working from home is not feasible.
  • The rationale for moving more claimants out of the LCWRA group is that they would be ‘motivated’ to undertake work preparation, but there is no research evidence of this. An inability to work due to long-term illness is not due to a lack of personal motivation or desire to ‘contribute to society’ – it’s due to an acute awareness of the detrimental impact that work can have on a person’s illness and condition management. There is, however, evidence that conditionality of this nature increases mental distress and that the UK sanctions regime has actually had an adverse effect on disabled people’s employment outcomes rather than improving them.
  • The new rules would see benefit claimants who fail to find work for more than 18 months having to undertake mandatory work experience placements. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are currently no employment support services through the DWP or contractors that understand and meet the unique needs of people with Energy Limiting Conditions. This includes a recognition of fluctuating capabilities, the need for significantly reduced hours, and the importance of carefully pacing a return to work to avoid damaging overexertion. We oppose the implementation of compulsory work experience as a concept, and also because the programmes currently on offer do not contain these essential components of employment support even for those who are able to work.

Our Position As A Charity

Astriid’s support and consultancy exists to help people who want and are able to work, and to liaise with employers who are ready to diversify their workforce and meaningfully boost inclusion in the workplace. However, we cannot and will not stand for forcing people who are severely unwell into unsuitable roles and tougher sanctions simply to access the measures they need to survive.

Research into long-term conditions and employment, and especially Energy Limiting Conditions and employment, is limited. However, our recent report (Making Employment Work) consulted directly with people with lived experience and made clear that existing employment support services are not meeting the needs of this population. We are calling for an increased awareness of health-related barriers to work, social conditions that impact this community, and the measures and adjustments we have identified that can support and empower people with long-term conditions rather than sanctions that further oppress them.

A graph of the research results from Astriid survey participants. The graph is titled “Top ten health-related barriers to work with a long-term health condition” and shows the percentage of people who identified each type of barrier. In order, they are Fatigue / Limited Energy (98%), Fluctuating Capacity (89%), Cognitive Fatigue or brain fog (87%), ‘Payback’ (symptoms deteriorating after exertion) (87%), Pain (73%), Dizziness (56%), Sensory Sensitivity (33%), Nausea (32%), Continence Issues (32%), Mental Distress (31%). Source: Astriid survey on long-term conditions and inclusive employment.


This piece is by no means a comprehensive response to all changes announced so far. There are also many more that contradict Astriid’s bespoke research and learnings from working on the frontline in this area. Instead, we feel it’s important that our supporters are aware of our stance on these developing issues. We welcome the increased investment for those who are hoping to find work, but there will never be a situation where every single person with a disabling health condition is able, nor should they be expected, to work. Boosting economic growth is extremely important, but this should not rank above the health and wellbeing of the increasing number of people acquiring debilitating long-term health conditions.

Our thoughts are with any of our beneficiaries or readers who are suffering fear or distress following this announcement. You can access free impartial advice via Scope’s helpline for disabled people and their families, and access support for your mental health via Mind’s helpline. We will be closely following the actions and implications that come after this statement, and we are ready to advocate for people with long-term conditions wherever we can.