The world’s top economies are getting people back to work so why is the UK hell-bent on putting workers on the sick? 

Britain has become a work-shy nation and the ever-increasing numbers of people putting their hand out for a sub is for me indisputable evidence of this truth

why is the UK hell-bent on putting workers on the sick? 

Whatever people say, I’m clear that compared to years gone by going to work for a living in the UK isn’t the only career move open to people.

Not so long ago a man who lost his job used to leave the house dressed for work every morning, not returning until his usual time, so the neighbours didn’t realise he was out of work. Sadly, this mind-set has evaporated. I’m no Rishi fan, but after seeing the figures and trends involved in the ‘Sick Vs. Lazy’ debate, it’s no wonder the PM and the Work & Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, are desperate to get people back to work.

 There’s a cost of living crisis, the economy is on the verge of recession, and we have a massive national debt thanks to the boys in Wu Han, so right now the country needs everyone that can working in the national interest. And yet despite our backs being against the wall every month in the UK we have more working age people not working or looking for a job than the month before. In total almost 10 million are considered ‘economically inactive’, which equals 22.2% of the potential workforce under 65 years of age.

It seems hard to put this rise in economically inactive ‘workers’ down to genuine claims when in all other G7 countries numbers are falling. Why are we, all of a sudden, such a sick bunch, compared to people living in countries like Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and the United States? Answer: we’re not. For a better explanation, look no further than a state funded benefit called PIP (Personal Independent Payment), which anyone can apply for over the phone. PIP can be claimed by anyone aged 16 or over; whether they are in or out of work, with payments based on the ‘practical effects’ of a person’s condition.

To qualify for PIP you must be assessed, but despite this hurdle it is proving incredibly popular, especially with younger age groups. Between 2020 and 2024 new applications have increased by an average of 68%, with 18-24s (up 77%); 25-34s (up 75%), and 35-44s (up 82%). In real numbers, total PIP claims, some of which can be awarded for up to 10 years, have increased from 40,000 claims per month to 67,000 in the last four years. Granted some are for short periods, and many claims are legit, but I can’t be the only one who can see how unsustainable this level of benefit payment increase is?

In business I have always been a huge believer in incentivising people to do well. I used to pay my plumbers £100-£200k a year and that used to get them out of bed in the morning. What the Government has done is created an incentive for people to not work, and it’s working a treat. Such a shame they couldn’t dream up a scheme that did the opposite and made it worthwhile for people to get a job and do well – like a national apprenticeship scheme!

There are a lot of things at play here, but we have 2.7 million working age people, the equivalent to the population of Jamaica or Albania, signed off on long-term sick, with that number 700,000 higher than in 2019, and showing no sign of levelling off.

National debt is at £2.65 trillion; roughly equal to our annual GDP, the NHS costs £165 billion, Education (£116 billion), defence (£48 billion), and we are paying out £130 billion on welfare benefits (excluding pensions, which adds another £135 billion to the accounts). The numbers are eye-watering and if we don’t stop the rot benefits will soon cost more than the entire NHS budget, followed by an inevitable collapse of the system.

Having a welfare state is a wonderful thing. Looking after your neighbours who have fallen on hard times through illness or accident is the right thing to do. But when everyone feels entitled to a free lunch from the guy next door things start to fall apart.

Charlie Mullins
Charlie Mullins

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