Stressed-out staff set to get therapy

Burnt-out employees who sign off work through stress will be targeted for therapy to get them back to their job, under new plans to shake up incapacity benefit being unveiled today.

The move, part of the Welfare Reform Bill,  reflects a significant rise in the number of people, particularly women, claiming sickness benefits on the grounds of stress or mental health problems rather than physical illness.

Ministers will alter the so-called capability test, which assesses whether claimants are fit to work, so that it measures stress better, and offer targeted help to get people suffering from it back to work.

The Bill will toughen the criteria on which people are judged fit either to seek work or be refused benefit if they do not. It will also require single parents to make greater efforts to find work or face losing their benefits.

Mental disorders now represent 40% of incapacity benefit claims, up from 16% in 1988.

In an interview on BBC radio, work and pensions secretary John Hutton said the “rather grim statistic” was people on incapacity benefit for more than two years were more likely to die or retire than ever get back to work.

“What we want to do is to measure people’s capacity to work more intelligently rather than simply measure their incapacity to work,” he said. “We’ve got to see people as potential job seekers and help them to get back into the labour market.”


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