I have always distrusted the “mid-life MOT” which seemed to me the thin end of the wedge of a Government “save now or no benefits later” program. Version one was benign, an innocuous interview with an Aviva sponsored guide who nudged you towards greater self-reliance in years to come. If you work for Aviva, you are not likely to throw yourself on the state as you grow older, so this was a grown up version of Pension Wise, an opportunity for the well off to validate their finances.
But what Mel Stride (or more likely his capable side-kick Guy Opperman) is now proposing is an altogether more sinister mid-life MOT. I quote from the BBC’s website
Older people who have given up work could be offered what is being dubbed a “midlife MoT” to entice them back into employment, the Times reports.
The paper says the MoT would assess finances and opportunities for work.
It follows a recent House of Lords committee finding that a wave of early retirement following the pandemic has caused a huge labour shortage.
The report by the influential economic affairs committee examined the jump in economic inactivity – the number of people not in work or looking for work – and rising vacancies since 2020.
Let’s be clear, the Midlife MOT is not concerned with our physical or mental health, it’s about getting a cohort of malingering middle aged Brits back into work , paying taxes, increasing our GDP and earning the DWP a big pat on the back from all at number 10 and 11 Downing Street.
The “notion” that these people are due some early retirement needs to be “countered” according to the Times
The measures are part of a wider initiative by the government, due to be launched in the new year, that intends to reduce the nearly nine million adults of working age who are economically inactive. Government sources said the plan was a priority for Sunak and Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, to counter the notion that the economy was being dragged down by low employment rates and a high level of long-term sickness.
So where did this notion come from? Well I seem to remember peddling a vision of early retirement to my peers when I was in my thirties and forties and the people who were listening to me and buying the personal pensions I had in my briefcase sound like the people who are now deciding to pack in work years before their state retirement age.
If people reach 55 with a pension pot that can pay for them to take it easy for a bit, is it really the job of the Government , which was selling the save harder – retire earlier – message , to stop them? If I was putting my feet up in my fifties, because I could, I’d stick two fingers up at Sunak-Hunt-Stride and Opperman.
As I read on through the Times article, my worse fears were realised. This Mid-Life MOT is not a gentle nudge at all, it’s a thinly disguised back to work scheme.
At the same time the government is looking at changes to reduce the number of workers on long-term sick leave. Government sources said the plan was part of a broader agenda by Sunak to tackle some of the fundamental problems facing the country. This includes further action to reduce the NHS waiting list, education reform and a continued focus on the immigration crisis.
It would seem that many of those on long-term sick leave are indeed malingering, despite Government’s figures showing an alarming backlog of treatment that tells us that the NHS isn’t giving people with health problems short-term treatment.
Ministers are also planning reforms to reduce the number of workers who drop out of employment because of mental ill health. Long-term sickness accounted for 28 per cent of all those out of the labour market in June to August, compared with 15 per cent at the start of the pandemic.
“Too many workers get signed off sick and simply never return,” a government source said. “We need to work with the NHS so that the priority is supporting people to stay in work.”
All of this may be true, but the “package of measures” being considered by the DWP doesn’t look like a nudge , so much as a shove in the back. It’s work or else.
Changes will also be made to universal credit to “iron out the quirks in the system” that, at certain points, discourage people from taking on more work.
Not so much a midlife MOT as “on yer bike”.