On looking through some of the press today about the UK’s sick pay claimants one would be forgiven for thinking they were reading about two different countries.
The Independent has the ‘controversial’ new benefits system forcing three quarters of claimants back to work while the Express berates the ‘disgraceful’ scale of benefits as official figures show that two million claimants are fit enough to work.
According to the Express sick pay can be worth up to Â£91.40p a week and with about 2.6 million people on it the bill for the taxpayer is some Â£13 billion a year.
The Independent points out that charities have warned that many seriously ill people were being forced back to work too early because the system is wrongly assessing them as fit for work. Many with long term fluctuating conditions and hidden symptoms are possibly being forced into work they are not physically and / or mentally ready for.
The coalition’s Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, is though determined to push ahead with the plans to overhaul the benefits system started by Labour last year. "The vast majority of people who are applying for these benefits are being found fit for work or have stopped their claim. These are people who under the old system would have been abandoned on incapacity benefits. It is a clear indication of why reform is so urgently needed. This is exactly why we are going to reassess everyone claiming incapacity benefits for their ability to work from this October. They will now be given the support they need to get back to work and will be expected to look for work if they are able to do so." He said.
It seems that even the sick are not immune from the recession. Can one honestly believe that all these people got up one day and decided to claim for the rest of their lives? They probably just used the system as it was presented to them. So some probably just fell into a sort of benefit trap and now rely on the economic crutches of the state. But what the state promised and gave away in the good times now has to be taken back in the bad times.
Just like a recession should cull out ‘bad’ business it should now just cull out (hopefully) the ‘bad’ benefits claimants. But will the drive for austerity and the public's perception of claimants lead to over-zealous cuts?