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.
"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
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