1,000 people 'too fat to work' claim £5m

BENEFITS cheats who languish on state hand-outs after lying that they are too ill to work are to be targeted in a fresh Government crackdown, it emerged yesterday.

 

David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne are to launch the attack in a second wave of welfare reforms planned for the autumn following measures announced in last week's Budget.

Housing benefit was the number one target in last week's Budget, with a tough cap slapped on the amount that jobless and low income claimants can get from the accommodation allowance.

But the Prime Minister and Chancellor also believe that big savings can be made in the £13billion a year incapacity benefit system.

 

The move comes after official data revealed that 476 reasons were given last year for claiming the help - including minor medical complaints like coughs, indigestion and even warts. Shockingly, more than 1,000 said they were too fat to work and claimed £5million last year while a further £10million was paid out to people because they had headaches.

Ten people even receive benefits for blisters.

Conservative MP Philip Davies said: "Nobody objects to a welfare system to take care of the those who are genuinely incapacitated.

But these figures confirm what many people have suspected that incapacity benefit is being totally abused by far too many people.

The Government has a duty to sort out the system for the sake of the tax-paying public and those in genuine need, to make sure there is an end to this scandalous abuse."

The Department of Work and Pensions wants all 2.6million incapacity benefit claimants to undergo medical tests by 2015.

 

Those who are deemed fit enough to work will be moved on to the lower Jobseekers' Allowance. But it is understood that senior ministers want to step up the programme, moving more than a million people off IB in under three years.

Mr Osborne, at the G20 summit in Toronto yesterday, confirmed the Government was looking for more savings from the welfare bill, beyond the £11billion in his Budget.

He said: "It's a choice we all face and it's not a choice that can be ducked. Of course, we've got to look across the whole of the welfare bill. Of course, you've got to look at individual benefits." Mr Osborne said the country had to face up to a"trade-off" between welfare cuts and spending on public services.

He wants any further savings in the welfare budget ploughed back into other Government departments to ease the pressure for 25 per cent Budget cuts.

He said: "Some of these benefits individually are very much larger than most Government departments. Housing benefit is one of the largest benefits, and in its own right would be treated as the largest Government department.

Incapacity benefit is a very large benefit. We've got to look at all these things, make sure we do it in a way that protects those in genuine need, protects those with disabilities, protects those who can't work but also encourages those who can work into work."

Calls for a change in the system were echoed by Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, for Romford, Essex, who questioned doctors' roles in the process. He said: "Doctors seem to sign people off sick for the most minor of ailments. There needs to be a radical clampdown on benefits claims. There needs to be a big change in attitude because it is costing the country, businesses and families a fortune."

Depression and anxiety were the fastest-growing reason to be off work, costing the country £1.8billion last year.

Almost 5,000 said a bad chest or throat complaints prevented them from working, at a cost of £23.4million.

However, 90 people claimed coughs made them unfit for work, handing taxpayers a bill last year for £300,000.

More than £60million was paid out for workers off sick with broken arms and legs.

But drug addicts and drunks were given £144million in state handouts - more than the £122million paid out to multiple sclerosis suffers.

A DWP report last month suggested nine out of 10 new applicants were either fit for work or could be moved towards rejoining the workforce