Therapists lined up to help claimants off benefits and back to work

Benefit claimants could be referred to a therapist in a bid to tackle the UK’s endemic sick-note culture if proposals from the welfare minister, Margaret Hodge, get the go-ahead.

Cognitive behavioural therapy could be used to address mental health and burnout or to change bad habits, such as overeating and drug addiction, and encourage people back to work.

The therapy would be used as part of a carrot-and-stick approach, where people who were judged capable of working could have their benefits docked unless they take steps to find employment.

“If you or I are stressed or have trouble with our business, we would go off and get a life coach or a mentor: If you’re working on a shop floor, you get a sick note,” Hodge told The Observer. 

People seeking sick notes from GPs for stress could be referred to an employment adviser or cognitive behavioural therapist to prevent them from claiming long-term incapacity benefit. 

“The issue is, can we get earlier interventions? We never see work as actually being one of the ways of bringing people back to health and wellbeing,” Hodge said.  

She added that it was not unreasonable to require something in return for benefits.  

Four in 10 claims for incapacity benefit are from people who cite mental health issues such as stress and depression.

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