The unemployed have ‘ample opportunities’ to work, ministers say

Mel Stride posed with a tractor as he arrived at Downing St on Tuesday
Mel Stride posed with a tractor as he arrived at Downing St on Tuesday - Dan Kitwood

The unemployed have “ample opportunity” to find a job, two senior Cabinet ministers have said as they insisted being on benefits is not a “lifestyle choice.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, and Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, made the comments as concerns grow over record numbers of people off work because of long-term sickness. 

Writing for The Times, they said: “We’ve been clear that unemployment benefits should only be there as a safety net, not a lifestyle choice.

“With around 900,000 vacancies in the economy there are ample opportunities for people to get on and get ahead in the world of work.”

They also insisted the economy is doing “far better than many would have you believe” despite “bumps, twists and turns” on the path to recovery.

The pair also said the Government is bringing in the “most radical welfare reforms in a generation” in an attempt to bring down the benefits bill.

More people with disabilities will have to look for work, people with many mental health conditions face losing cash benefits and sick notes are being overhauled, while occupational health services and personal life coaches for those with long-term illnesses are being expanded under recently announced government plans.

They also reiterated their commitment to cutting national insurance, insisting the tax will be cut “until it’s gone” in an attempt to incentivise work.