A third of all people who receive incapacity benefit have a mental
health problem, the chief medical adviser for the Department for
Work and Pensions said last week.
Professor Mansel Aylward said that the proportion had increased
dramatically from 14 per cent in 1992, when muscular-skeletal
problems was the main reason for claims.
But the increase comes in spite of the number of people with
diagnosed mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar
disorder staying the same.
Aylward attributed the increase in people with mental health
problems claiming incapacity benefit to a change in culture: “We
feel that there has been a loss of stigma associated with mental
health, maybe because people no longer describe it as mental health
problems but as stress in the workplace.”
Delegates at the work and mental health conference organised by the
Harrogate Centre for Excellence in Health and Social Care heard how
having an occupation was important for people with mental health
problems and assisted recovery.
The government’s consultation on the Pathways to Work
green paper ended earlier this month. It proposes the creation of a
“return to work” payment of £40 a week for 52 weeks for people
moving off incapacity benefit and going back to work, where their
income is less than £15,000.