An overhaul of the Incapacity Benefit paid to sick and disabled people will be announced in Parliament today.
Disability charities are pleased there will be more support to get people into work but are concerned that the reforms could make some disabled people even poorer.
The plans will mean that anybody wanting to claim the benefit will first have to be tested by a government doctor.
What do you think of the benefit plan? Will it encourage people off incapacity benefit and back into work?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received:
I have worked in benefits administration for 17 years and have visited many, many people who seem perfectly fit for work but are claiming incapacity. Some claimants claim this benefit as an alternative to Job Seekers Allowance so as not to be required to prove that they are seeking work. Local GP's are reluctant to say that somebody is not sick which allows people to stay on incapacity. I welcome the Government's proposals and hope that they will also look at other welfare benefits. In my opinion the whole welfare state needs an overhaul!! There are too many people who just won't work!
Mr Johnson said he wanted to ensure the "nine out of 10" claimants who want to get back to work quickly were able to do so. That is such ignorance of the reality that is out there. How absolutely wonderful to think that simply wanting to work is enough! Where are the jobs? My brother would love to work and feel productive but finding a job for those who are 100% healthy is hard enough. Thinking you can get people back to work just by legislating it is ignorant. These politicians have no idea what it is like to be emotionally or physically disabled. Employers don't have the time or the need to accomodate disabilities, that is where the legislation needs to be.
Maggie Martin, Canada (ex uk)
Blair has identified a real problem - for many people, staying on benefits can be easier and more profitable than going back to work. But, as usual, he has picked the wrong target. Going after people on incapacity benefit is a very dangerous move - unless this is done very carefully, people with mental illness could be forced back into totally unsuitable work.
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK
It is a red herring. Blair does not want thousands of people to come off benefit because it will increase the number of unemployed to the real figure and expose the New Labour economic miracle. It will drift away like all the other statements like improved health service, lower crime, education, WMD, etc..
Fuller, Melksham England
This new scheme is a double edged sword. It will make people think twice about trying it on but I can see it also putting pressure on those that are genuinely ill to go to work when they should in fact be resting and getting treatment. The government will do their utmost to kick as many people off incapacity and sickness benefits as possible - anything to get the figures down. Of course it's easy for them to do these things because they, the MP's, will never have to rely on benefits. They don't even live on the same planet as their constituents .
Lee, Stockton UK
If part of the thrust of the reforms is to get 1 million people back to work, where are the jobs they will be employed in? Unemployment in the population at large is still around the million mark.
David Thornberry, London, UK
The government is forgetting that the majority of people who claim I.B. do not want to return to work! Most of them are low skilled, and employers are not interested!
As a worker within the DWP I welcome the news, many customers I see want to work but are often put off by issues such as accessibility and travel and how employers will not buy special equipment if that is needed. I think many people on Incap will welcome the news and enjoy the opportunities for training and life enhancement.
I wholeheartedly concur with these proposals. Any kind of benefit fraud is a drain on not only the economy, but the taxpayer. Obviously people cannot be lumped into two categories; disabled and fit, there must be a scale. Those who are unable to move obviously deserve the full amount. Those in wheelchairs, for example, can do any job in an office environment, as can a person with back problems. I fail to see why people are moaning about how it will make the poor poorer.
Stanhoffenski, Edinburgh, Scotland
I would love to go back to work but it is very impractical as when I did in the past it left me poorer and I eventually got even more sick. It's very difficult to find a decent employer who will take you on in poor health not knowing if you are going to turn up one day to the next. I find the governments findings insulting and it does not value the many people who are sick that contribute to society in so many different ways like me doing voluntary work to help with child care and therefore supporting family members who do go out to work. I have saved the government thousands now they want to penalise me, adding to the worry of having to find extra money to pay for bills that I am already committed to on the allowance they give me. It's a cheap election stunt to appease the chattering middle classes. Watch it Blair 2 million voters and families might just be enough to put you out of your job.
Paul Houghton, Coventry
I am claiming Incapacity Benefit because I have agoraphobia, severe panic attack disorder and depression, which I have been fighting for the last four years. If these new proposals are designed to help people like me, I fail to see how. I would rather that the government spent the money on tackling health issues like mine; given the vast amount of people claiming benefits with mental health issues. I am certain that if I had received the correct treatment in the first place, I would have been back working - a productive member of society - instead of having to rely on charities such as Mind and the Samaritans for my therapy.
It is a sad fact of life that people abuse the system and as a result of this others have to jump through hoops in order to receive benefits they deserve. I deeply sympathise for the genuine cases out there but there has to be checks on this. As an employment lawyer I see genuine cases but unfortunately I also frequently see cases of people being signed off sick in order to avoid problems at work. Shame on those who fake, we all pay dearly for it.
R, West Midlands
If there is a real problem with fraud then by all means tackle the problem. Our family experience is that already you cannot get incapacity benefit for more than a very short period without being examined by a BA doctor and the examining doctors take a very harsh line so where is the fraud coming from? In addition it is very difficult to find an employer who will take on a person with a disability. My brother is dyslexic and has angina, employers do not want to know. These announcements cause despair to people with real problems.
Ed Smith, Nottingham UK
As a doctor, I have worked as a medical advisor to Incapacity Appeals Tribunals and was dismayed by the random nature of the whole process. Claimants must "fail" the all work test, which is a measure of their ability to do any work, not just the job that they might have had prior to their claim before they are allowed this benefit. The test was devised by the DoH and aimed to prevent at least 60% of would be claimants getting any money.
The problem was that anyone who didn't get benefit could appeal to a tribunal with a legally qualified chairperson and two lay assessors (usually middle aged ladies). These folks tended to ignore medical evidence and just go on instinct, thus many who DID deserve benefit because of medical disorders were disapproved and others who were obviously (medically) OK were signed off. The whole system is rotten and Mr Blair's posturing will not deal with the fundamental flaws in the process
David, Reading UK
If employers in certain areas, e.g. the North of England and Scotland where wages are often not enough to live off, were forced to pay a living wage, this would encourage those who have been on benefits long-term back to work. Tax credits are merely a subsidy for bad employers, and anyway, are usually only paid to those with children. Considering the housing shortage and accompanying high rents and mortgages, many low-paid workers are left with hardly any money after they have paid for their accommodation. This hardly acts as an encouragement for people to go back to work. Low-paid workers are little more than slaves, no wonder people refuse to take these miserable 'jobs' and would rather remain on benefits.
Lindsay, London, England
Do I smell an election coming? 'Let's crack down on benefit fraud' says Mr Blair, hoping to get his retaliation in first to stop the Tories accusing the government of being profligate with taxpayers' money. Then, when the election's over and Labour have a third term, it can all quietly fade into the background again. Except that for those who genuinely ill or disabled, this is yet another upheaval that causes at best inconvenience, and at worst real distress. It seems as if, once again, Westminster are playing games with people's lives.
Darren Stephens, Whitby, UK
I know people who claim to have mental health problems who get every benefit going, including incapacity benefit. Their 'illness' doesn't stop them going on holiday abroad, presumably at our expense, going to pubs and spending a large part of their day dishing out advice in internet forums for those with similar 'problems' like self harm. These people could easily get clerical jobs on computers but they put on a good act to convince doctors they're not fit for work.
Liz, Leeds UK
A lot of people here seem to think illnesses like anxiety and depression are easy to deal with and can be cured overnight, this is not the case. It can be very detrimental and hard to deal with for the sufferer. Imagine being forced into a job for 10 hours a day when your heart is pounding, you are sweating, nauseous and dizzy! This is how I feel just going to the local shops, I can't help this, it just happens, does this make me a scrounger and a loser?
Jason Thomas, Cardiff
The whole benefit system in the UK is wide open to abuse. If I was working for a large multi national company and was to go off sick with back problems, or stress, the company would initiate procedures where I would see a company doctor, and get counselling, back to work assistance etc. Why should the same not be the case for everyone? Let's focus the money on the people who genuinely need it - those who want to work, but can't and make the rest get back to work. Although these measures may backfire on the government, as more people get back to work - or try, then the headline unemployment numbers are likely to rise!
I am getting incapacity benefit because I was retired under ill heath from my job. Does Tony Blair think we enjoy trying to live on £74.00 a week then? Has he tried to find a job with a poor medical history? Well I have. Let me say this I applied for 34 jobs and not one replied, no doubt due to medical history. So what now Tony?
G Maxxwell, Doncaster South Yorkshire
My Partner has been ill for 8 years. Initially she tried working, but found it impossible to get a full years NI/Doctors Certificate. This stopped her getting many benefits then. Our current GP believes her illness to be a serious neurological complaint and is doing his best to find a diagnosis. What safeguards are suggested to ensure those who are waiting for a diagnosis are assessed compassionately?
Steve Cummins, Bradford, UK
They do need to tackle the benefit system. I have neighbours who don't work and admit they are better off not working. She claims incapacity benefit because she suffers from the same disability as me - but I work. Her husband claims carers allowance, but he is never there to actually care for her. Maybe I should take the same line, sitting at home and 3 holidays in the sun a year are much more preferable to working 45 hour week.
S, Chester, UK
The last refuge of a government bereft of new ideas or policies: target the poor, the sick and the least able to attract the attention of the media. What next 1-800-SHOP-UR-MATE? Maybe if they stopped outsourcing benefit claims to be processed abroad we'd be in position to offer IB claimants decent jobs.
Allan McEwan, Canada/UK
Why do people and governments pigeon-hole society into groups all the time? They should take a more personal approach to claimants. Genuine people who can't work are hardly living in luxury on £75 per week. This is another example of marginalizing the vulnerable and poorer people in our society.
To the contributor who thinks "only the physically disabled should get IB" is way off mark. I have an autistic son, he has limited communication, limited understanding, knows only close family members well, and is anxious to the point of terror in any new situation. Surely you cannot be suggesting he is capable of working somewhere out in the world where his anxiety could cause a reaction possibly aggressive possibly self destructive? Throw away those preconceptions and generalisations and lets be scrupulously fair in weeding out the scroungers whatever they look like.
Jacqueline, Whitstable UK
I think this must be a political football. Incapacity benefit is paid if you are judged to be incapable of any work. Its not for a disability, or the jobless. Incapacity benefit is tested on fitness for work - such as if you can't stand for 10 minutes or sit for half an hour in a chair, or climb a flight of stairs. Incapable of any work is just that - heartbreaking and difficult to cope with as it is without this extra stress.
Mr Blair is an astute politician: fully aware that something drastic has to be done to ensure that the benefits system is not abused. He should be commended for this brave step. Confronting this escalating widespread abuse headlong is bound to make the Prime Minister unpopular in certain quarters. But sticking to his guns and getting the benefits system back on track and only for the genuinely needy cases is the hallmark of a fair system. Hard and honest work should be ethically promoted and encouraged with true satisfying rewards. But cheating the system should be highly discouraged and even be severely punishable.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels, Belgium
My sister is partially blind and cannot get a job. She tries very hard and is only a teenager but finds many doors are shut for her. Even training schemes for people in her situation are very limited. The government are only interested in numbers, not the faces behind the numbers. My sister would love to work, to be included and not shut out because of a disability she has not control over. The job centre however give her suggestions for the most ridiculous jobs, miles and miles away from where she lives in places she would never be able to get to on her own.
Laura Hamilton, Saltcoats
Something needs to change. The current benefits system makes it very difficult for people to move off of incapacity benefit and into work. Often people will try to start work again but after a few weeks find that they just cannot cope. The problem then is that they have to re-apply for benefits. This can take many weeks, particularly for housing benefit, often leaving claimants in debt and sometimes facing eviction. It is a similar situation if they try part time work as this affects their benefits and the length of time it takes to make adjustment can cause claimants server financial difficulty. Much more needs to be done to improve transition support so that people can gradually get back into work. With the current system anyone would be crazy to start a job if they were not sure they could sustain it longer term.
Steve, London, UK
One thing our esteemed politicians seem to forget is the rampant discrimination against disabled people in the workplace. I'm lucky enough to have worked with a very enlightened company for the past almost six years without a problem. I give 100% and on the odd days when I am ill I make up the time. It is one thing to force disabled and ill people to look for jobs and presumably punish them for not "doing enough" however it is something completely other when disabled candidates can find nothing because of sheer discrimination.
Stephen Innes, Fenwick, UK
As so many of your correspondents claim to be able to pinpoint the apparently huge number of benefit cheats out there, how come they are not shopping these people to the benefit cheat hotline? It's very easy to point the finger at abstract targets without actually doing anything substantive about a supposed problem. In fact, that's just what Blair is doing with this pathetic attempt at headline grabbing.
John, Norwich, UK
As a non Labour supporter, I totally support Labour's plan to get people back to work, whilst there are some people who generally cannot work due to disability or injury, there are those who use the system as an excuse not to work. My stepdaughter's boyfriend claims that he cannot work, yet he can move as easily as I can. All because he has been allowed to sit around living off "us taxpayers". I hope people who are able to work, will realise the benefits they will get - meeting new people, learning new skills and the pride of paying for something you have worked for.
Sharon, Crawley, England
The real problem with incapacity benefit is that much of it is subjective, unlike Jobseekers or unemployment benefit which are provable. But you cannot be arbitrary, unless you find an alternative, fair way of ensuring those who can work do so and those who cannot obtain fair benefits. It also impinges on NHS policies and the so called 'sicknote mentality' together with employment and childcare issues. There is no cohesive coherent policy and thereby hangs a problem. I suspect that this is no more than an electoral gimmick but the both parties should beware of short term measures.
Tony, Welling Kent
Its all fair and well saying that the government will get people off of benefits and into work, but I find that getting a job, even with my experience and education is a nightmare, there just isn't enough jobs to satisfy the market. this needs to be addressed before any other matters. Otherwise it will only end up like in Berlin, where a woman was told she would have here benefits stopped if she didn't work as a prostitute.
As a principle, it sounds fine, and I would not disagree with it, provided it does not penalise the innocent. However, is this anything different to what is being tried already ? I don't really believe this is actually going to solve the problem. Personally I suspect it is the government attempting to gain votes for the upcoming election, and nothing more will be heard after May - whatever the outcome.
I agree that the government needs to tackle the benefit culture that is milked by idle malingerers in this country, but many of the cynics on here seem to tar all claimants with the same brush. I hope they are never in a situation where they need to genuinely claim IB and risk being classed as an idle scrounger.
Simon, Liverpool, UK
The Government's move on this issue is very welcome; but Chris from Bradford is right when he says that there are problems in the NHS supporting people who want to get back to the workplace. The problem lies with GP's and the Primary Care Trusts who fund them, who have no incentive to drive down the numbers on Incapacity Benefit. I hope that the Department of Health is also made to support these objectives in its activities, and that there is a real incentive for GP's to focus on emphasising the real health benefits that most people experience through being at work. At the moment this is not the case, and many GP's prefer to keep in with their patients by being a soft touch for sick notes.
John Erskine, Leeds, England
I hope now that Mr Blair believes that many of the IB claimants are capable of going back to work, that he will the good grace to stand up in PMQs and adjust his unemployment figures. I think that perhaps they wont be as low as he'd like us to think they are.
A more rounded solution is required here. There are many who want to go back to work, but find the opportunities afforded them after many years illness to be frankly unattractive. If this 'scheme' is going to work, the government really needs to re-train those on IB whilst they are receiving benefits. But where are the jobs going to come from? With an ageing population needing to work longer, what opportunities will be left? But I agree with the sentiment. I know of two individuals on IB who could work as their physical condition has improved greatly. Their only problem now is depression and lack of confidence, but like everyone else, maybe they just need to get on in life like everyone else.
Lee Sutton, Sheffield
I have no problem with targeting those capable of putting more into society. My concern is that these measures normally only hit those least able to answer for themselves. The people that should be targeted (i.e. those playing the system) are more than capable of putting off the investigators using methods used by serial hardcore benefits claimants. I have worked for social service departments and been an elected member of local government with responsibilities for social services. The people that should be targeted invariably get away with it!
Bob Adcock, Medway Kent UK
My mother and her partner both suffer from severe mental illnesses leaving them unable to work. Even today's news headlines regarding possible changes to incapacity benefits has caused my mother huge anxiety at the thought of all the forms, interviews, checks etc she will need to complete for a new claim to be processed. Change to the system is inevitable and probably necessary, but care must be taken to avoid causing needless stress to an already vulnerable group of people.
Gina Smith, Aylesbury, Bucks
Having been unfortunate enough to need incapacity benefit in the past I know from bitter experience that genuine applicants are constantly hassled for medical reviews. In every one I went to the reception area was crowded with wheelchair users and people on crutches, yet I knew others in my locality who were absolute malingerers who were never called. Is it because DWP staff don't want the bother of dealing with surly, abusive, parasites? This plan will never work, like all the rest it won't be implemented properly. It is merely a pre-election ploy by phoney Tony.
Trevor, London UK
I have a long term incurable and life threatening illness but have chosen to keep working full time. I want to work and need the income and social support. I am very saddened by some of the comments on here about people who are claiming incapacity benefit. Of course there will be fraudsters, but there are also a huge number of genuine cases who are disabled and unable to work and Blair's plans are just going to add to their ill health. They may have worked for many years paying their taxes and are unable to continue - they are perfectly entitled to claim incapacity benefit surely. Just because someone is not wheelchair bound or blind does not mean they are not suffering a serious illness. People are too quick to judge on first appearances.
Genuine need should always be met but we need to find a way of only offering benefits to those that need it. We cannot continue to support the lazy to the detriment of the industrious or we will become a third rate nation. Penalties for benefit fraud should be denial of access to any benefits for at least 10 years. The risks have to be greater than the reward
Martin , Poole
I am not claiming incapacity though I was advised to by a doctor. I worked all my life but suffered a breakdown in 2000, I tried to carry on working but my agoraphobia and anxiety made that impossible. I claim income support and hope to return to work this year as I am receiving therapy and hope to improve my situation. I think IB is a good support to those who claim it honestly and should be carried on as such. They should target fraudsters more.
The medical examination carried out by Medical Services to see if you "satisfy the personal capability assessment" to be unable to do ANY work and hence entitled to long term IB is very thorough & soon sorts out the skivers. Is it not being applied correctly throughout the country? I suspect not. If it was there would be no need for any changes.
Keith, Chepstow, Wales
The longer you are on benefit the less money you should receive. It makes me sick to think that I'm working hard to help some scroungers have an easy life. Money for nothing... What's their motivation to return to work?
Mark, West Midlands, UK
I work with many severely disabled people in a commercial business where they are supported by the Workstep scheme. Many would be better off financially on benefits but prefer the sense of worth and comradeship that meaningful work bestows. For many disabled people, self-esteem is at a low ebb and it is already very hard to find worthwhile and valued employment. Whilst I really believe that the right sort of work can give real enhancement to people's lives I an not sure where the government means to find meaningful work for 1 million people whose options are already limited by their disability. Part of the problem is that people are not just living longer but are living longer in a poor state of health so it's hardly surprising that the number of people claiming incapacity benefit is increasing. In view of this fact and the difficulty people will find in sourcing work, it seems to me that the only answer is back to the workhouse. Is this what the government intends?
Helen Clapham, Leatherhead, Surrey
I would love to work. Unfortunately I can't seem to find a job that will allow me to go in when I am well enough and leave if my symptoms get so bad I can hardly sit upright. I would like to find a way to work from home but this would require a far more flexible approach towards the vicissitudes of my health and my ability to work than the government is willing to consider. At the moment I give what time I am able to for free to a local charity. It seems to me that if the government were to stop believing that most claimants are fraudulent they could adopt an approach more like that for taxing for the self-employed. I could then earn part of my income but have the absolute necessity of a safety net of benefits for the days and weeks when I am too ill to work. This would save the tax payer money and raise my self-esteem after nine years of being stuck on benefits, losing a job I loved, my home, my partner and quite frankly at times my sanity.
In court, 80+% of our clients are on benefits. Too many of these are on Incapacity Benefit for depression or back ache. I have seen many people on Incapacity Benefit due to back ache who have been the aggressor in violent attacks. In my opinion, 90% of recipients of Incapacity Benefit could do some form of work and 50+% of those could do manual work. Our doctors are failing us.
Howard Tate JP, Pontefract, UK
I know two people who claim incapacity benefits for depression and anxiety. In addition to the cash benefits they receive, housing benefit, reduced entrance rates to museums and galleries and many other advantages are open to them. Their lives are cushioned and they live as if on a private income or generous pension. One claims she would like to be able to work but can no longer afford to, since she could not earn enough to equal what she gets on benefits. I believe only the physically disabled should receive additional disability benefits. The others should just receive what the unemployed get.
How many people are like me? I waited two years before receiving medical treatment for spinal spondylosis by then it was too late. Nerve damage had turned me into a cripple. The bad state of the NHS has caused me to become an incapacity benefit claimant. I had to wait 5 weeks before getting my benefit and had to involve my MP.
Michael Ayres, Margate , England
This country needs to focus on penalising the people that rip off the state, as opposed to letting the tax paying fund them. If someone is genuinely unable to work, it is a different situation to those people who cannot be bothered to work, or work AND play the system, therefore simply scrounging of every working person in this country.
Caroline Mantle, Hillingdon, UK
As both a welfare rights advisor & someone who is about to lose their job through ill health & end up on IB, I am appalled at the implication that the people in our society who most need support are once again being stigmatised as scroungers. Mr Blair & many of the judgemental commentators would do well to remember that they may end up losing their health one day and be dependant on benefits paid from taxes they have contributed to.
Carl Sutton, Weston-super-Mare, N Somerset
This is just another part of the suspicion culture that our government seems to want to develop. It is always much easier to blame unknown people for poorly defined problems than tackle reality. Incapacity benefit fraud is tiny in comparison to other frauds the government would perpetuate spending money on, such as Identity Cards and invading other countries.
Duncan Drury, London, UK
Those on long term unemployment should be made to work in the community to earn their dole. Long term sick is long term sick. However, I think there needs to be more investigation into depression or stress related disorders as they appear to be ripe for abuse.
G D Price, London
This is a very big gamble, it could cause a great deal of distress to a lot of mentally ill people who are already not getting adequate treatment & care. Now they could be forced out to work which would make their condition worse. As always with these kinds of reforms it's always the most vulnerable that suffer & cannot fight back due to the nature of their illness.
R Dewey, Plymouth
This idea makes them look tough for the election, but New Labour tried to push a similar piece of legislation through in their first Parliament and it produced the first and largest rebellion by their back bench MPS. After Iraq, tuition fees, PFI scandals, etc why do they think it will get a more sympathetic hearing now?
Peter Playdon, Coventry, UK
Employers are generally not interested in people who have been out of the job market for several years and in chronic ill-health. The present plans ignore the real problem and move a supposed problem from one list to another.
Kevin Smart, Brighton UK
I once worked for the Department of Work and Pensions, and I must say that I am very happy to hear that Mr. Blair is finally doing something to amend our easily exploited benefits system. I personally believe that the cost of benefit fraud has had a profoundly detrimental effect on our economy. It is about time that we made a clearer distinction between those who are incapable of working, and those who are just bone idle!
Paul Callaghan, London
As a person on incapacity benefit, I can say that I do want to get back to work. It is due to the long waiting lists on the NHS that I am still on incapacity benefit since I was diagnosed a year ago. I think Mr Blair should concentrate all efforts on the NHS, as it is them who treat and rehabilitate people.
Chris Scott, Bradford, UK
I would like to know how many more people claim IB than before labour came to power. We have created a ridiculous system where, if you have the right problem, you can sit back & laugh your socks off at hard working people. New car every 3 years with no costs, we would all like that. Even if it is genuine I still believe that there are very few people who can do no work at all.
James Pluck, Reading, England
This is a step in the right direction. Britain needs to see an end to the entitlement culture, which is a legacy of socialism/ the nanny state, if it is to compete effectively in the modern world. People need to ask, "how will I look after myself?" rather than "how will the state provide for me?"
John, US ex UK
I suffer from depression but combat it with medication. I have never felt the need to go on incapacity benefit and find that doing well in my job, as I am, greatly increases my confidence. Depression is not an acceptable reason to sit back and accept handouts.
Yes, Tony's plans will work, providing he also outlines a plan to ensure assessments are fair and efficient and only those who really deserve to receive incapacity benefits will do so. Unless such a system is in place, all those bogus stressed out back pain sufferers will continue to leech on the system and genuine cases will get pushed to the side.
Raluca, Brit in the States
Working for an organisation that provides residential and day care for people with severe learning difficulties, I am very concerned that these moves will adversely affect the most vulnerable. Government provision is such that most are left with no more than about £17 per week after their basic housing and care needs are met. This paltry sum is meant to cover for clothing, toiletries, entertainments and holiday needs they have. By all means encourage those who can work to do so but please, please remember that that some are not able to do so and presently appear condemned for life not to enjoy anything approaching the standards of living the rest of us take for granted.
Peter Balcombe, Norwich
In your 1 pm news today, Andrew Marr seemed to suggest that "depression and bad backs" were not proper illnesses. My daughter saw the programme from a hospital where she is being treated for depression and telephoned me to ask that I write to Andrew asking him to make it clear that depression is serious medical condition and to have suggested otherwise was to stigmatise mental health patients.
George, Cheshire, UK
My partner has been living with a broken back for 3 years. Yes, you read correctly, "broken" - and he is still waiting to see a specialist. He's never even been on incapacity benefit. You'd think it was easy for people to claim it going by some of the comments here. Think again. Doubtless there are some who abuse the system but when a genuine case needs help, they should get it. Blair should balance this new proposal by getting rid of incompetent DWP pen pushers with no medical qualifications who "cure" people on a regular basis. That will also save some money.
Before the government starts on the large number of people with genuine incapacity, why not simply target the large numbers of people who are on incapacity benefit but taking the system for a free ride, who clearly CAN work. Take a trip to the local supermarket on a weekday and you will see 10, maybe 20, people who you know are on the take. Some even have jobs, yet "forget" to tell the DSS. The whole system needs a total reform to sort out the genuine cases from the freeloaders.
Mark Gillespie, Weymouth, UK
I resent the idea of only being able to claim IB for a limited number of years. I have cerebral palsy and have had it all my life. If I can only claim for a few years what then? CP is a life sentence; I need an income, and support. This overhaul follows another government moving the goal posts and suddenly being ineligible for DLA. It sucks, and all governments are as bad as one another.
Hang on. The Office of National Statistics estimates that the amount of overpayment is less than £19m, i.e. less than 0.3% of all expenditure on Incapacity Benefit. Yes, we should support moves to break down barriers preventing people with disabilities from working. But we should be willing to bear the cost of breaking down these barriers, and the cost of supporting those who cannot work. People talk of a five year limit. These people, I suggest, are in need of Incapacity Benefit as they are surely too stupid to work. How does someone physically or mentally unable to work become well simply as a result of flinging that person into destitution?
Andrew Bartlett, Cardiff, Wales
I am on incapacity benefit and now feel scared. It is hard enough having to go cap in hand as a 'sick person' and ask shallow little jobsworths for the right to a pittance to get by on. Or have these people look down on you. Sickness brings grinding poverty and low self-esteem as it is and now Tony Blair wants to beat his chest and make the government look strong by adding insult to the injury that life has already dealt the sick. Shame on him.
Katy, Bath, UK
I think it reasonable for the state to make regular checks on people who are claiming benefits. I would like to see more emphasis on occupational therapy in encouraging and assisting people back to work. I think the burden of declaring people unfit for work should be lifted from GPs as they often have no idea what the patient's job entails. Very often a person claiming incapacity benefit may be unable to do their former job but is capable of working in some capacity.
Sophie, Manchester, UK
I have a relative on incapacity benefit. He has severe mental health problems that leave him unable to work. The stress of being put through more interviews or a medical check up will exacerbate his illness.
Nicki, Aberdeenshire, UK
I worked for the Department of Work and Pensions, and I can assure you that a large number of Incapacity Benefit claimants are already working. They just forget to tell the DWP and continue to claim their benefits. Their sicknesses tend to be 'anxiety', 'depression', 'stress', 'back pain'. Whilst there are many genuine claimants out there with these illnesses there are plenty who are swinging the lead. I worked in DWP fraud and I should know - most of my investigations were on people who were sick and doing undeclared work. This initiative may help to reduce the numbers on IB but we need to get as strict as the USA and limit the number of years people can stay on welfare. Whilst the government continues to allow benefit payments as a career option rather that a last resort safety net things will not change.
As an ex-Civil Servant I agree wholeheartedly with targeting fraudulent claims but, as a (reluctant) recipient of incapacity benefit myself, would ask what we do with those of us that genuinely can't work? I would love to work - my work has been my life for the best part of 40 years - but too often the pain I experience is now so distracting I can't concentrate.
George, London, England
This is really rich. Putting millions of people on incapacity benefit was a new labour ploy to make the unemployment figures look artificially low, Now it has backfired they want to change the rules again. This lot could not govern a pet shop
Alan Baker, Chelmsford Essex
The only five year plan needed is a five year limit on the ability to draw benefits except in the most extreme cases. It would soon sort out the work-shy from the incapable. Blair's plans will never work because they never have any controls or limits, merely rhetoric, aspiration and blind faith in something that has never happened before, and that common sense tells the rest of us will never happen in practice.
Tim, Brecon, Wales
I'm just coming up to retirement after almost 50 years of working for my living. I am very fortunate that I have had the health and strength to carry me through my working years. I do not begrudge a penny of my taxes going to support those less fortunate than myself. Terry UK
Terence H Coleman, Thornton Heath UK
Seeing the benefits system at work - so much of it relies on the trust of the people who are claiming any kind of benefit. We need to educate people so that when they are able to come off benefits they do, rather than continuing to take money they are not entitled to.
Dean, Notts, UK
How cruel and thoughtless people are on here. I work with people claiming Incapacity Benefit, I daily see people who struggle with a wide variety of illness and yet still want the dignity of work. These people deserve our help - not condemnation because you can't see their disability. It scares me that some people in the UK can be so self-serving and callous towards those not as fortunate as themselves
We've had 'get tough on yobs', 'get tough on public services' and now we have yet another pre-election 'get tough' campaign. None of the past announcements have had any effect in the real world so why should this? Rather than targeting people on benefits in general, those fraudulently claiming should be targeted in particular and the penalties should be draconian to discourage others. Slaps on the wrist don't deter anyone; 6 months on a chain gang tidying up motorway verges might.
Trevor, Cambs, UK
Having a bad back is enough to get you signed off work. There are jobs out there that don't involve bending and lifting. It's too easy to do nothing in this country. I work with a lady who can hardly walk. If she can make the effort then so can most people
Andrew, Helmshore, UK
The biggest problem with the benefits system is that it fails the people who pay the most. After working for 5 years as a single person with no children, earning substantially above average earnings, 3 months on Job Seekers Allowance was a shock. I was lucky this time, I found a job one month before I would have been unable to pay my rent. 3 months longer without work? I could have been living on the streets! To get some extra money in, Incapacity benefit was a very attractive option.
All very laudable but it won't succeed for the simple fact that his heart isn't in it. They've had since 1997 to tackle it and just made the situation worse. I'll bet little will change behind the headlines but heck, the headlines will have done to job of re-electing him before we all find out.
Phil Holley, UK, Cambs
They need to be targeting those who are claiming incapacity benefit fraudulently, get them back to work and leave the genuine claimants alone. My mum has been on incapacity benefit for 10 years and she wouldn't be able to do hold down a job due to the fact that she wouldn't be reliable enough as some days she can walk a few metres as a time, but other days she is bedridden. She'd soon be fired for lack of attendance!
Sonia, Luton, UK
Perhaps he could start by sorting out the NHS, as I believe many people on incapacity benefit are still waiting for an operation.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK
The Government should be harder on people who milk the system. I knew someone on disability benefits who continued to play rugby. If you can play sport you do not need benefits. Also I am sure people get benefits for physical problems that are not in anyway stopping them working.
Jim, York, England
Compulsory interviews won't work with the large number who actively don't want to work. I have met quite a number of young people that have absolutely no intention of getting any kind of paid work. They ham up being dim, feign injury or incompetence and are continually bailed out by the Government. People on long-term benefits should be given at least one or two days a week of community work, so that they at least give something back.
Harvey (A disenfranchised higher-rate taxpayer), Wrexham
I now believe there are more scroungers and hangers-on under Labour than under any other party. I personally wouldn't give them a penny. It seems an easy option for young people to stay at home and have loads of children and expect someone else to pay for them. Also there are too many people claiming incapacity benefit. Give them nothing.
Robert Hobson, Leeds
Another 5 year plan?! How many of these are currently running? Perhaps if the government had not plundered the pension funds in the first place they would not need to get disabled people to work off Brown's debt to the people of Britain. This is atrocious, really, can these folk get any worse?