Just one in eight on sickness benefit is truly too ill to work: Almost a million drop benefits claim to avoid new test
- Only 232,000 people have been deemed to be too unwell to work
- Some 30 people claimed they were unfit due to blisters, while 60 cited acne
- Around a third of incapacity benefit claimants choose to drop claims
- Figures show Government changes are already having an effect
Just one in eight people claiming sickness benefits has been found to be too ill to do any sort of job, it has emerged.
And almost 900,000 have dropped their claim to the taxpayer-funded benefits rather than undergo a new medical test as part of the Coalition welfare reforms.
Official figures released yesterday ahead of a string of changes to the tax and benefit system suggested the Government’s strategy is already having a dramatic effect.
Only 232,000 – one in eight of those tested so far – have been deemed by doctors to be too unwell to do any sort of work.
Another 837,000 who did take the test were found to be fit to work immediately, and a further 367,300 were judged able to do some level of work.
Some 30 people were claiming they were unfit to work because of blisters, while 60 cited acne and 2,110 said ‘sprains and strains’ rendered them unfit for employment.
The figures showed that 878,300 people – around a third of the 2.6million who were claiming incapacity benefit – have chosen to drop their claims rather than face a medical. A Department for Work and Pensions document said 1.44million Incapacity Benefit reassessments have so far been carried out by doctors.
Reforms: Work and Pension's secretary Iain Duncan Smith's new universal credit is set to replace all the main out-of-work benefits
Ministers say they are evidence of a ‘wasted generation’ of people who went on to benefits under Labour, and were never given any incentive or support to get back into work.
A series of controversial reforms to the benefits system comes into force this week.
These include an end to housing benefit subsidies for people in taxpayer-funded housing with spare rooms, an overall benefits cap limiting household claims to no more than £26,000 a year to match average salaries and a new personal independence payment to focus disability benefits on the worst off.
Working-age benefits and tax credits will rise by just 1 per cent from the start of the tax year on April 6 – the start of a three-year cap that represents a real-terms cut.
Conservative chairman Grant Shapps said the system of welfare dependency created by Labour was ‘evil’ and accused the party of using sickness benefits to ‘hide the unemployed’. He said Iain Duncan Smith’s new universal credit, which is to replace all the main out-of-work benefits, would ensure people are always better off if they take a job or increase their hours rather than continuing to depend on the state.
He told Sky News: ‘These are very big reforms – in fact the biggest since the war.
‘I think it’s really important we do have a system where people are supported into work, and where when somebody works, they always know they’re going to be better off than someone on benefits. That’s what this incredibly large reform, the universal credit, will achieve.
He added: ‘I think it’s completely unfair when people can’t work out whether they’d be better off or worse off if they work more than 16 hours or 24 hours or 30 hours, the various different limits which were in place with different benefits.
‘What we want is a system where people just know they will be better off if they’re working. And that’s what the universal credit will deliver.’ Mr Shapps said the welfare system had become ‘literally cruel, even evil to people’.
He added: ‘Nearly a million people have come off incapacity benefit before going for the test. They’ve taken themselves off. My big argument here is this is not these people were trying to play the system, as much as these people were forced into a system that played them.’
A coalition of churches, however, accused the Government of perpetuating myths about poverty in an attempt to justify welfare cuts.
Looking for work: Mr Shapps has said that the new system would ensure people would always be better off if they took a job or increased their hours rather than depend on the state for benefits (file picture)
In a joint report, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist church, the United Reformed church and the Church of Scotland said that the ‘systematic misrepresentation of the poorest in society’ was a matter of injustice. Economic Secretary Sajid Javid last night wrote to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls ahead of this week’s changes asking him to say whether Labour – which has opposed every significant spending cut – would reverse them if elected.
Mr Javid insisted the Government was ‘reforming the tax and benefit system so that it works for hardworking people’.
The letter added: ‘But since you became Shadow Chancellor, Labour have opposed every single saving we are making to live within our means. Your only economic policy is more borrowing, more debt – more of how you got us into this mess in the first place.
‘And yet your opposition so far has not included any firm commitment as to whether you would actually reverse any of this Government’s decisions after the next election.’
Mr Javid asked whether Labour would reverse a string of measures that have a combined saving of £5billion a year for taxpayers.
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