Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Once again our leaders have wimped out on reforming incapacity benefit.

We all know the facts. It costs £12bn pa, and there are 2.7m claimants (IB and related benefits). Which is saying that 1 in 12 of our working age population are apparently incapable of work.

Of course, we know that's a nonsense, driven by the desire of successive governments to get people off the unemployment register (or jobseekers' empowerment network as it's now almost certainly known). Which they have achieved by the simple expedient of setting Incapacity Benefit rates above Jobseekers' Allowance.

Well, obviously a doctor has to sign you off as well, but as the hard-pressed Doc Crippen records, they all love signing people off. Dr Laurence Buckman, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP Committee, says "GPs are not occupational health trained and wouldn't know if someone's fit to work or not. What we know is whether they are ill or not."

So some- quite possibly fairly large- percentage should really be on the lower Jobseekers' Allowance rather than IB.

Which reformwise is a teensy problem. For as John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said self-righteously: "I did not come into politics to make poor people poorer."

Or to put it another way, of the 100 Parliamentary constituencies with the highest numbers of IB recipients, all but 5 are Labour.

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