Astriid Statement On Proposed Changes To Welfare System – April 2024

We are deeply concerned by the latest statement on plans to reform the welfare system. We first raised our concerns and made our position known when the proposed changes opened up to consultation, and even as a charity who connects people with long-term conditions with meaningful work, the latest announcement has reinforced our views that this plan is not an effective way to close the disability employment gap… and also displays an alarming lack of understanding about the realities of such conditions and the daily barriers individuals must contend with.

Part of the proposed reform includes the Work Capability Assessment being tightened so that people deemed to have ‘less severe’ conditions will be expected to find work. This categorisation fails to recognise the fluctuating nature of many energy limiting conditions and also that people with long-term physical conditions are more than twice as likely to develop mental ill-health – a fact likely to be further exacerbated if people are also stripped of some or all of their social support and pressured into work.

The statement also posits that anyone working less than half a full-time week will now have to try and find extra work in return for claiming benefits.  As a charity, we have supported numerous people into work over the past few years, many of whom can work a maximum of a few hours per week in order to avoid over-exertion and manage their health condition over the longer-term. Forcing people to work more hours in return for the financial support they are entitled to will not resolve the issue – in fact, it could realistically lead to a worsening of people’s conditions that worsens their quality of life and takes them out of the workforce altogether.

We also reinforce the points we raised during the DWP consultation previously:

· 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 mobilising, 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.

· Other than Astriid, there are no employment support services through the DWP or contractors that understand and meet the key needs of people with energy limiting conditions, such as fluctuating capabilities and the need for significantly reduced hours. We oppose the extension of compulsory work preparation because the programmes currently on offer do not contain these essential components of employment support.

We have seen time and time again that there is a severe lack of knowledge and understanding regarding long term conditions in the workforce, including in key areas such as inclusive recruitment and making reasonable adjustments which are often positioned as ‘solutions’ by people who have no lived experience of the current shortcomings and complexities of them. Similarly, it is also likely that the ‘specialist work and health professionals’ (who Mr Sunak proposes will issue sick notes instead of GPs) will lack this specialist knowledge and insight too. It is clear that this lack of insight is the underlying issue that must be addressed if the government wants to close the disability employment gap, and yet organisations such as Astriid, who provide this training developed and led by people with lived experience, receive no official funding to carry out this work and build a more inclusive, compassionate approach.

Because of this, and many other reasons we will address in due course, we strongly oppose these demands made by the Prime Minister. While we agree that being in work can bring immense benefits to those who want to and are physically capable of being in employment, penalising the people who cannot work or making them jump through ever-more restrictive hoops will not make the world of work more inclusive.


If you are a business who wants to take a stand against this injustice, we invite you to join our upcoming webinar, sharing our impactful research findings on working with a long-term condition and showcasing our virtual training on supporting people with long term conditions in the workplace. Details will be announced soon – keep an eye on our website and social media to reserve your place.

In the meantime, our thoughts are with anybody struggling with increased mental and physical distress at the prospect of such changes. Although being in work can bring huge benefits, people should never be pressured or forced into unsuitable roles, and their output or productivity should never rank above their safety and wellbeing. We will continue to do what we can to fight for the voices that often go unheard.