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  • Writer's pictureFranck Banza

Tackling “Sick Note Culture”: The Harmful and Demoralising Rhetoric of PM Rishi Sunak

In a nation rich with potential and brimming with talent, it’s disheartening to witness a stark reality: many of our young people have stopped dreaming. Instead of fostering an environment where aspirations can flourish, government decisions are increasingly creating barriers that stifle ambition and creativity.

The narrative has shifted dramatically, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we grapple with the ramifications of this global crisis, including a significant mental health decline and the emergence of long COVID, which affects millions, our government’s approach remains woefully misguided. Rather than addressing these profound health challenges with compassion and support, there is a push towards punitive measures that only serve to exacerbate the struggles of the most vulnerable.

The proposed policies by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to overhaul the UK’s “sick note culture” are a prime example of this punitive approach. By planning to strip GPs of their power to sign people off work, the government is not only undermining the professional judgment of our healthcare providers but also insinuating that benefits have become a “lifestyle choice.” This narrative dangerously oversimplifies the complexities of health-related work absences and paints a picture of a welfare system abused rather than used.

This rhetoric is not only harmful; it is demoralising. It suggests that instead of striving to recover or manage their conditions with dignity, individuals are opting to exploit the system. Such accusations fail to recognise the real and often insurmountable challenges faced by those dealing with long-term health conditions, particularly the youth who stand on the precipice of their future careers.

We must ask ourselves: Is this the kind of society we want to cultivate? One where young people are forced into work when not in full health, or where they are too intimidated by stigma to seek help? This is not just a failure of health policy but a failure to inspire the next generation.

The upcoming general election is pivotal, especially for young people. It’s an opportunity to challenge the prevailing winds of policy-making that favour punishment over support. It’s a chance to elect leaders who understand that true leadership involves lifting people up, not boxing them in.

The Liberal Democrats and I are committed to reversing this trend. We believe in empowering our youth, supporting our entrepreneurs, and ensuring that every individual in society has the tools they need to succeed. Policies should be crafted to support job creation, foster business innovation, and provide the mental health support that our citizens deserve.

As we approach the polls, remember the power of your vote. It’s a tool to reshape not just the political landscape but the very fabric of our society. Vote for hope, vote for support, and vote for a future where dreams are not only nurtured but encouraged.

Together, we can restore faith in our systems and in each other, inspiring a generation ready to rebuild and dream big once again.

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