Conservative party unveils sickness benefit reform plan ahead of election.

The Conservative Party, led by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and facing an upcoming election, has revealed its strategy to tighten sickness benefit rules, aiming to save £12 billion ($15.3 billion) annually.

Sunak framed the reforms as both a moral mission and a means to stabilize public finances, addressing concerns about people withdrawing from the workforce. The plan includes bolstering mental health services, stricter assessments of work capability, and tougher measures for job refusal.

Conservatives claim these changes will result in significant savings for taxpayers by the end of the next parliament. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies cautioned that many of the proposed changes were already factored into existing fiscal projections.

Of particular note is a proposal to limit benefits based on mental health conditions, which could lead to cuts, according to IFS Associate Director Tom Waters. However, he warned that actual spending reductions might be more challenging to achieve than anticipated.

Welfare spending for the sick and disabled has surged since 2019, with further increases expected, partly due to the impact of the COVID pandemic. Meanwhile, labor force participation among working-age Britons has declined, primarily due to rising long-term illness and student numbers.

With a national election scheduled for July 4, opinion polls suggest the Conservatives could face a significant defeat to the Labour Party. Labour has proposed measures to reduce health treatment waiting lists, aiming to facilitate return-to-work initiatives and curb the welfare bill’s rise.