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Thousands claim incapacity benefit for addictions

  1. Finn Mac Cool
    More than 80,000 people in Britain claim incapacity benefit because they are alcoholics, drug addicts or obese, the government says.

    The Department for Work and Pensions, which wants to re-assess the UK's 2m claimants, said more than a quarter of the 80,000 had not worked for a decade.
    Ministers said people must not get "trapped" on welfare.
    Campaigners said they had serious doubts about whether there was enough support to help people back into work.
    The figures released by the DWP are a snapshot of incapacity benefit claimants in August 2010. The government wants to re-assess all current incapacity benefit claimants by 2014.
    There have been pilot projects to determine whether people are fit to work immediately, whether they can begin the process of looking for work with support or whether they need constant care and cannot work.


    As part of this process, the government has released details of the 81,670 people it says are claiming incapacity benefit - and its successor, employment and support allowance - as a direct result of alcohol, drug and obesity problems.
    Far from being the safety net it should be, the benefits system has trapped thousands of people in a cycle of addiction and welfare dependency ”
    Chris Grayling Employment minister

    As of last August, there were 42,360 claimants with alcohol addiction, 37,480 with drug dependency and 1,800 who were obese, officials said.
    The DWP figures indicate that 12,800 alcoholics and 9,200 drug addicts have been claiming the benefit for more than a decade, as well as about 600 people considered obese.
    Employment minister Chris Grayling said the problem needed to be addressed, both for the claimants and society as a whole.

    Welfare reforms

    "It is not fair on anyone for this situation to continue," he said. "Far from being the safety net it should be, the benefits system has trapped thousands of people in a cycle of addiction and welfare dependency with no prospect of getting back to work.
    "All of those are conditions which are treatable, which are able to be overcome if we give people the right support."
    Mr Grayling said private and voluntary organisations had agreed to invest £580m in treating addicts and preparing them for employment.
    Stereotyping IB claimants won't help them find work. The government has to stop over-simplifying welfare. ”
    Disability charity Scope
    They will be only be paid by the government when their clients return to work - using money saved from giving them benefits, he said.
    Ministers launched what they said was the largest back-to-work programme in modern history earlier this month as part of reforms designed to make work pay and simplify the benefits system.
    Alcohol awareness campaigners welcomed the aim of helping people to give up drink and get back to work but warned removing benefits from vulnerable people risked making their situation worse.

    Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said he was concerned the government was not prepared to commit enough funds to tackle a shortage of treatment facilities for those with addictions.
    And he told the BBC: "I would imagine that the vast majority would find it quite difficult to go back into the workplace because, first of all, how many employers would take on someone who's been out of work for two or three years because they've been drinking?
    "Secondly, the very stressful nature of being in the workplace environment means that for people who are heavily dependent on alcohol it would be difficult for some people to hold down a job."
    And a spokesman for the disability charity Scope, said: "Stereotyping IB claimants won't help them find work. The government has to stop over-simplifying welfare.

    "It needs to acknowledge that disabled people face multiple, complex barriers to finding jobs and build an assessment and support system based in reality. Otherwise their admirable aim of getting disabled people into work will fail."
    Labour said the government's economic policy was self-defeating because spending cuts would increase unemployment levels and push up the benefits bill by £12bn.
    "The real problem now is the Tories' decision to cut too far and too fast has meant that unemployment is set to increase every year," said shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne.
    "With five people now chasing every job, what we need to get people off benefits and paying tax is more jobs."

    21 April 2011



  1. missparkles
    So now people with addictions are considered to be disabled? :s

  2. kailey_elise
    Damn, "They" took that option away from us back in the early/mid 90s! Yeah, you used to be able to get disability benefits for being a "chronic" alcoholic or drug addict. They changed the rules & addiction (including alcoholism) alone is not a disability enough to warrant being on government disability.

    The only reason I became aware of this is because I'd been on disability since I was about 12 years old, for various "mental disturbances", including (but not limited to! ;)) clinical depression, ADHD, etc that didn't respond well to treatment. Anyway, as an older teen I developed an alcohol problem & @ 18 I went to detox for a week; a few weeks later I get a letter stating I was being dropped from disability because "alcoholism is no longer considered a disability". This was horseshit (that's not why I was "disabled"), but as I had gotten a job, I didn't fight it. Wish I would have, but that's neither here nor there.

    So, y'all can still apply & receive disability benefits *just* for being an addict? I'm really surprised this is only being addressed now! *LOL* I know lots of addicts over here who get benefits, but officially, it's for the underlying mental disorder (they often go hand in hand; however the mental disorder could probably be dealt with far better if they got the addiction under control. *sigh*).

  3. Mancini
    An awful lot of people with complex health problems - particularly related to mental health but also long term physical maladies - resort in desperation to illegal drug use for relief after years of trying unsuccessfully to get effective help from the medical establishment. Where their underlying condition - though clearly impacting negatively on any hope of a "normal life" - may go un/misdiagnosed and poorly treated (if given credence at all) by doctors, a severe drug or alcohol addiction is impossible to ignore providing the patient's prepared to talk to their GP about it in the first place. It's not surprising therefore that there are now a lot of people on Sickness Benefit whose only formal diagnosis is drug/alcohol dependence. Up until the present it seems this has been accepted as a valid reason for a claimant's being unable to work and so, perhaps having been unable to help in other ways, a GP could at least ensure a patient's financial safety by offering such a diagnosis. But this needn't necessarily mean addiction to drugs/alcohol is by any means the only problem - just the easiest one to write on a sick note. In fact, in very many cases the use of substances amounts to 'self-medication' in an attempt to alleviate symptoms of a pre-existing, deeply distressing condition.
    Clearly, today, the goalposts are moving, and it remains to be seen whether or not it'll be for the better. In principle it's certainly unfair that society should support those who opt for "getting wrecked" simply as a preferred lifestyle. However, I see a distinct possibility that the government's blunderbuss approach may hit a lot of very vulnerable people too, simply because of what was written on a piece of paper some years ago.
  4. catseye
    Since the late '90's apparently :s
  5. NeuroChi
    Though it does sound comical, I'd argue it's true. A drug addiction, by definition, is detrimental to health, productivity, etc. and one might quality it as a disability. It sure isn't an ability. Lol.

    This is strange... 600 obese individual haven't worked because they are unable to? Is this the 600 most obese people in the country, ie. can they actually not physically move from their hospital bed?
  6. missparkles
    I suppose what I'm saying, or trying to say (perhaps very badly) is that to label anyone as "disabled" for a condition that is treatable is incredibly disabling. It conjurs up images in my mind of someone who will never be able to work. I think it's incredibly easy for people to take on, and own, labels that are placed on them.

  7. kailey_elise
    *ding ding ding* We have a winner! ;)

    Giving addicts money *just* for being an addict is very disempowering; I know so many who wouldn't even THINK about getting a job, because they'd lose their disability. Then they're bored shitless when they get out of rehab & often slip into old behaviours. And why not? They're sitting around with nothing to do, the rent's paid & they have money just burning a hole in their pocket.


  8. Finn Mac Cool
    Moral welfare

    Quiet morning? Banish boredom with some hand-wringing about alcoholics, drug addicts and obesity patients receiving incapacity benefits!

    It is one of those hardy perennial stories to be wheeled out on a dull news day, a chronic "scandal" that media and Ministers alike know will press the button marked "moral outrage".

    But hold on. Today's version says 80,000 addicts receive welfare payments
    and yet in 2006 the story was that 100,000 were on incapacity benefits.
    In 2008 it was more than 100,000, last August it was nearly 90,000, by November it was more than 100,000 once more.


    I haven't seen any stories saying that the latest figures represent a 20% fall in just five months. I wonder why.

    I also wonder why this particular group of incapacity benefits claimants is picked out from the data. The suggestion seems to be that people suffering from diseases like alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity are morally culpable for their condition.

    John Humphrys articulated just this point on the today programme this morning. When Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern suggested alcoholics were often unable to work "through no fault of their own" he was interrupted. "No fault of their own?" he was asked.

    One can understand why the question is asked but once society starts introducing the idea of "fault" into the issue of welfare, the debate enters dangerous territory.

    Let us assume that the reason for all these stories about drug addicts, alcoholics and obesity sufferers receiving state support is that some people regard them as "undeserving": what about these people?

    1. The smoker who knew the risks and developed lung cancer
    2. The non-smoker who lived with a smoker, knew the risks and developed lung cancer
    3. The horse-rider who knew the risks of the sport and suffered brain injury after a fall
    4. The spinster who ignored her doctor's advice to lay off the sweet sherry and developed debilitating diabetes
    5. The man whose refusal to follow health and safety advice resulted in a disabling industrial accident
    6. The driver who crashed into a tree after three gin and tonics and was never able to work again
    To be fair to the government, ministers have always couched the debate in terms of supporting and encouraging people back into work through treatment or other help. There is also a legitimate public discussion to be had about individual responsibility and whether the state should tailor welfare provision to encourage pro-social behaviour.

    But let's be honest: this familiar debate is really about providing ammunition for those who insist it is possible to take a moral stance on welfare; that we can divide up potential recipients in terms of deserving and undeserving.
    The trouble with this argument is that it would necessitate some kind of "morality officer" charged with deciding whether incapacity was the "fault" of the individual. Who would we recruit for this job? What questions would be asked?
    The alcoholic whose condition has led them from well-functioning citizen to welfare-dependency - is it the role of government to investigate the case and apportion blame?

    What if it emerged that the individual had suffered serious child abuse which had led to severe mental health problems which in turn had led to the bottle? Should the abuser face sanction rather than the abused? Should the retailer who sold the cheap cider knowing the customer had a drink problem? What about the drinks company promoting sales of high-strength low-cost booze? And do the institutions and politicians who failed to protect the abused child and supported the drinks industry shoulder any responsibility?

    A thought for a quiet morning...

    80,000 - 100,000+

    PS: My list of incapacity benefit addict stories was an illustration of how this tale gets re-told and re-packaged at regular intervals. The Sun story from November relates to figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request from the previous year and so my 20% fall point should be taken with the stroke-inducing pinch of salt with which it was intended to be consumed. Incapacity benefits closed for new claimants last August of course.

    21 April 2011

  9. kailey_elise
    Re: Moral welfare

    I don't really have a problem with those people getting disability benefits. If a drug addict contracted HIV/AIDS or HepC, then I wouldn't have a problem with them getting benefits either. Or if they're mentally ill (which maybe contributed to them becoming addicts), then getting benefits for the incapacitating mental illness is just ducky in my book.

    I think getting disability *JUST* because someone's an addict is disempowering & demoralising. And though it may have been in place to help those who pretty much ARE beyond help, just anyone started to get it - after all, how can you really determine who's "really bad off" & who's "going through a rough patch but should be able to get through it"?

    I'm not exactly sure why I feel this way. Maybe I don't think being an active addict is a disability...though it can certainly be disabling. :rolleyes: I don't know; maybe I am making a moral judgment here. *shrug*

  10. Mindless
    There does seem to be a problem here, although I'm surprised that the figures are as low as as 81,670. But what is the real issue? OK, lets stop giving benefits to the undeserving dirty addicts and winos. Why not cut out benefits and healthcare to the obese? And what about all those who eat an unhealthy diet, or those who don't take enough excercise? Perhaps if I don't take care crossing the road I should be denied access to emergancy services and sickness benefit.

    This seems like deliberate misdirection. Setting one section of society against the others is an old trick, designed to divide and conquer. Lets not forget about the recent bailout of banks, and the prosecution of pointless, bloody wars in the middle east. These are at least two of the reasons the state is in financial distress.
  11. Finn Mac Cool
    I'm not surprised to see the Tories attacking those that can't defend themselves, "all addicts are scroungers" says millionaire Dave, he's starting to sound like the Sun newspaper, shudder.
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