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Benefits of £4.4 million for the ‘too fat to work’

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Almost 2,000 people who are classed as ‘too fat to work’ have been paid a whopping £4.4 million in benefit.

The shocking findings reported by The Times newspaper revealed that billions of pounds are being paid in benefits to people claiming to be unable to work because they suffer from illnesses that keep them away from work.

The complete list of the 480 different illnesses and complaints for which people received incapacity benefit in February were released by the Department for Work and Pensions. More than £2 billion was paid in 2006-07 for mental health complaints, including £518 million to those with what are described as ‘unknown and unspecified’ diseases.

Overall, more than £1.1 billion was paid to people suffering from a depressive episode, plus a further £276 million to the estimated 116,000 claimants with ‘other anxiety disorders’ and £122 million to the estimated 50,000 suffering from a ‘reaction to severe stress’.

The newspaper added that a total of 15,600 people received benefits for ‘malaise and fatigue’ and a further 8,100 for ‘dizziness and giddiness’. The figures disclose that 4,000 claimants had headaches, 2,700 migraines and 1,890 suffered from eating disorders. About £100,000 in benefits went to those with acne and a similar amount to 60 people with ‘nail disorder’. Nausea and vomiting cost £2 million in benefits for 900 people.

Frank Field, a former Social Security Minister, said: “It is a racket, which governments have allowed to exist for far too long. I do not blame people for working the system, it is the job of politicians to stop them doing it.”

Field added that because job seekers’ allowance is lower than incapacity benefit, there was an incentive for people to try to be classified for the higher benefit.

The number on incapacity benefit has more than trebled since 1979 but in recent years it has been broadly stable at about 2.7 million. In the past 12 years, however, there has been a dramatic shift in the illnesses for which people are being given the benefit: 40 per cent now claim for mental health problems compared with just 20 per cent in 1995, says the paper.

Incapacity benefit is available to anyone under state pension age who cannot work because of illness or disability. A person becomes eligible after they have been on statutory sick pay for eight weeks. The amount payable ranges from between £61.35 a week to £81.35 a week, compared with £59.15 jobseekers’ allowance.

Plans are in place to replace incapacity benefit next year in an attempt to get more people into work. A revised health test will also focus on a person’s capability rather than incapacity for work.

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Annie Hayes

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