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Rishi Sunak’s pledge to introduce tax cuts, funded by tightening access to disability benefits, is drawing criticism for its potential adverse impact. Critics argue that the already challenging disability benefits system leads to mental and physical health deterioration, putting additional strain on public services and the economy. Concerns have been raised by experts, politicians, charities, and the EHRC, citing distress, poverty, and avoidable deaths resulting from the difficult navigation of the benefits system.

Individuals, including amputee Aidan and chronically ill Chelsea, have shared harrowing experiences, emphasizing the traumatic nature of the process. The government’s proposed reforms, aiming to make eligibility for sickness benefits stricter, are seen by Sunak as a move toward fairness and encouraging employment. However, charities warn that this approach may worsen mental health, pushing people further away from work.

While ministers emphasize cracking down on the benefits system to drive people into employment, critics argue that it could contribute to worsening mental health and illness, counterproductive to the government’s intentions. Tom Pollard from the New Economics Foundation notes concerns about giving tax cuts to higher earners at the expense of those already struggling, highlighting the need to address essential costs and protect vital public services.

The number of working-age adults out of work due to long-term sickness has been on the rise, partly attributed to factors such as long-Covid, NHS waiting times, and an aging workforce. Critics stress the importance of focusing on ensuring everyone can meet essential costs and protecting public services instead of making life harder for those already struggling. The Office for Budget Responsibility warns that tightening the benefits system could lead to more disability benefit claimants, potentially costing the taxpayer more in the long run.

As disability benefit claims surged since the height of the Covid pandemic, concerns about rising hunger and hardship prompt a call for a reevaluation of benefit levels and addressing systemic issues. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that poverty costs the UK £78 billion annually, with extreme poverty doubling since 2017. The Trussell Trust highlights increased demand at food banks due to issues in the social security system, raising expectations for this winter to be the busiest on record for food banks.

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