David Ruffley - MP for Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Needham Market

DWP Press

Telegraph - Huge rise in incapacity benefit paid for stress

1st February 2007

MORE than one million people are being paid incapacity benefit because they are suffering from eating disorders, stress, depression or other mental health problems, new figures have revealed.

The numbers claiming they are unfit to work because they have a mental or behavioural disorder has risen by 50 per cent over the last decade.

However, the increase has been three or four times higher for certain conditions. A total of 49,160 people with "severe stress'' were paid incapacity benefit last year, compared to 16,700 in 1997.

There has been a 129 per cent increase in claimants suffering from eating disorders - up from 800 to 1,830.

The single biggest category was the 501,520 who claimed the benefit last year because they had "depressive episodes'' - an 82 per cent increase over 10 years.

A total of 136,700 alcoholics and drug addicts received the benefit last year, compared to 76,200 a decade ago.

The figures were uncovered by David Ruffley , the shadow welfare reform minister, who said they exposed how cuts in NHS mental health services were pushing more people on to a life on benefits.

There are 2.7 million people on incapacity benefit at a cost of about pounds 7 billion.