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Our Response to the Autumn Statement 2023

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We respond to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement and how it could impact people living with or affected by diabetes. 

We’re incredibly disappointed with the planned changes to benefits proposed in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement. 

We had called for the government to make clear commitments to protect the nation’s health and stop the cost of living crisis becoming the new normal. 

But we expect these plans will have a profound impact on people with diabetes and make it even harder to stay healthy and remain in or return to work.  

What was announced in the Autumn Statement? 

Despite benefits being set to rise by inflation, the government has announced plans to reduce the number of people declared unfit for work. These plans include changing the Work Capability Assessment, and new sanctions for people who receive the Universal Credit standard allowance.

This will mean more people are expected to be declared fit for work, and will need to look for work or face having their benefits cut. The government will also cut off free prescriptions and legal aid to benefit claimants who are deemed fit to work and do not seek employment.  

The number of people living with diabetes having to leave the workforce because of their health is already at an all-time high. This is on top of too many people with diabetes struggling to afford essentials and finding their health suffering as a result.  

The Autumn Statement went nowhere near far enough in offering people support with the cost of living, or giving us confidence that public services like the NHS will have the funding they need to support people to remain well and treat complications of diabetes.  

The government’s limited action of uprating benefits in line with September’s inflation base rate and unfreezing Local Housing Allowance is completely undermined by these proposals to increase sanctions and scrap Work Capability Assessments.  

If people with diabetes face having their benefits slashed, this will make it even harder to have enough money to stay healthy and remain in work and make existing health inequalities even worse.  

One supporter told us how mentally and physically struggling to cope with their diabetes has meant they’ve struggled to remain in work: 

“It’s difficult to find a workplace that would even consider dealing with my situation and health.”  

The proposed cuts are unacceptable. People with diabetes need support to stay healthy and avoid preventable complications. These proposals risk making life even harder for people dealing with diabetes complications, and more difficult to be well enough to remain in work. 

If you would like to know more about what these changes might mean for you, or are in need of support with the cost of living, you can contact our helpline at 0345 123 2399 for advice and support. 

What we wanted to see announced 

We had called for the Autumn Statement to: 

  1. Deliver on investing in a fully funded NHS workforce 
  2. Make sure people with and at risk of diabetes have the money in their pockets to remain well, avoid complications, and remain in work. 

As our report The Hidden Cost shows, people with and at risk of diabetes are struggling. This is leaving people with no choice but to make risky cutbacks on essentials, go without the things they need to remain well, and unable to access routine care – leaving an already overstretched and under-resourced NHS to try and pick up the pieces. 

And as you’ve told us in our Diabetes is Serious campaign, this can come with life-changing complications and consequences.  

Of people living with diabetes in England: 

  • 48% told us that they experienced difficulties managing their diabetes in 2022.    
  • 50% of them put this down, at least in part, to lack of access to their healthcare team.  
  • 28% put this down, at least in part, to the increasing cost of living.   

Without measures to help people live well and afford essentials, even more people will be relying on the NHS at every step of their journey with diabetes.  

The NHS also needs proper funding and investment in its workforce to help people living with diabetes prevent complications, to prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes in the first place, and to have the resources to support the people struggling to manage their diabetes right now. 

Investing in the NHS and its workforce 

In 2023, the number of people in the UK living with diabetes reached 5 million people for the first time. At the same time, the NHS is under immense pressure, and action to tackle the backlog of care is still needed to support frontline healthcare teams in getting vital services back on track.      

Despite the NHS’s tireless efforts, many people living with diabetes are still missing out on the vital health checks they need. This is putting them at risk of serious complications, which can sadly lead to premature death.  

One of our supporters who lives with type 1 diabetes told us the impact that going without care has had. They said that, due to a lack of support and information from healthcare providers, they are now blind in one eye and partially sighted in the other, and living with first stage diabetic kidney disease as well as nerve damage in their feet and legs. They now spend most of their time in hospital, and are unable to work or socialise. 

We need a healthcare system with funding which keeps pace with inflation and a workforce to deliver the timely and tailored care that people need to manage diabetes. 

The NHS already spends 10% of its budget treating diabetes, 80% of which is spent on preventable complications. If the NHS is forced to do more with less, then this will lead to too many people going without the care that they need to live well with diabetes. 

Helping people with diabetes have enough money to stay well 

The rising cost of living has left too many people with diabetes struggling to get by and to manage their condition. While government may have achieved its ambition of halving inflation, that doesn’t mean that the crisis is over or that its impact won’t still be felt - especially by people on the lowest incomes at the sharpest end. 

We’re seeing frightening signs of hardship from people living with diabetes, or at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes:  

  • 77% told us that the rising cost of living is negatively impacting how they manage their diabetes or risk of diabetes.  

  • 66% have cut back on essentials like food or energy, or have gone without entirely. This includes eating cheaper but less healthy food, cooking less to save energy, using a food bank, or switching off the fridge - impacting food and medication storage. 

  • 11% of people living in the most deprived areas of the UK have been unable to afford to travel to medical appointments. 

Factors outside of our control which affect our health such as poverty mean the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is over twice as high for people living in the lowest income households as those on the highest incomes. 


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