Demos budget verdict: Hunt’s ambition on tackling economic inactivity should be welcomed

Response to the measures announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget to tackle economic inactivity and increase employment.


The Chancellor has nailed the importance of tackling economic inactivity – but we need to be bolder about the solutions.

Universal Support – a voluntary programme of personalised, tailored help for people with health conditions – is a more effective way to help people who want to work but face challenges in their lives. We have proposed a more ambitious Universal Work Service to integrate employment, skills and careers advice and give employment advisors time to build the relationships with individuals. For too many people those relationships are currently transactional and ultimately ineffective.

The Chancellor’s commitment to consulting on increasing occupational health services for SMEs is the right decision. In focus groups, out-of-work over-50s told us they had left the workforce for health-related reasons, but would have liked help to continue to work. We recommended more workplace health support in our research last year – the chancellor has to follow through with funding for this.

We are concerned about the tightening of Universal Credit rules and sanctions delivered via Jobcentres, with our research showing that this significantly undermines trust and can result in a large volume of low-quality job applications, something which ultimately frustrates recruiters.

Today’s announcements represent a significant first step, but the government should go further in the future. A relational and supportive approach to employment support should be made available to everyone, regardless of whether they have a long-term health condition, enabling more people to access good work. This approach would boost employment across the country, which is crucial for improving living standards and achieving sustained economic growth.