STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Terrible Costs of a 'Modern Economy'
By Staff News & Analysis - April 02, 2013

900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests … Nearly 900,000 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claim to the payments rather than undergo a tough medical test, latest government figures show. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: In order to catch malingerers we need a stern paternalism.

Free-Market Analysis: When large democracies create state mandates they will inevitably be exploited. Now it appears that nearly a million in Britain were taking advantage of sickness-related benefits that they were not eligible for.

This figure is arrived at via reports that 878,300 "decided not to have an official assessment of whether they were fit for work." The Telegraph informs us this was more than a third of the total number of people claiming sickness-related benefits.

Here's more:

The statistics also revealed that some claimants cited conditions such as "blisters", "sprains and strains" and "acne" as preventing them from having a job.

More than 46,120 people claimed incapacity benefit because of "behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol" while 29,130 claimants cited drug use.

Ministers said the figures showed the full extent of how millions had been "trapped on welfare" for decades.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said the old system was "evil" and accused Labour of using sickness benefits to "hide the unemployed" when the party was in power.

The statistics emerged ahead of a raft of controversial changes to the benefits system which will come into force this week – including the "bedroom tax" which sees council and social housing tenants facing reductions to their benefits if they have empty rooms in their homes.

Also coming in is an overall benefits "cap", which will prevent any household receiving more than £26,000 a year in total benefit payments – a figure set to reflect the average gross salary of a full-time worker.

The current conservative government is becoming stricter about who is getting government benefits. But the figures cited above are not the end of it. According to the Telegraph, government ministers are seeing the results of "tough measures – or the threat of them – [that] are changing behaviour by seeing people drop their claims."

The additional numbers, mentioned almost casually in the article are significant: "As well as the 878,300 who chose to drop their claims, another 837,000 who did take the a medical test were found to be fit to work immediately, while a further 367,300 were judged able to some level of work."

In total, the number from whom Britain is paring unemployment-injury benefits is apparently in the area of nearly two million. Of those tested, only one in eight, about 232,000, were classified by doctors to be too ill to do any sort of job. Thirty people claimed blisters rendered them unable to work, 60 cited acne and for over 2,000, "strains" precluded employment.

These assessments are part of a larger reconfiguration of benefits that ironically is set to cost the British government over five billion pounds. Those who undergo the tests may receive compensation from a new benefits scheme or may be eligible for a new employment program designed to put them back to work.

From what we can tell there is a good deal of controversy about the new programs being initiated and the human cost seems substantial. There will be a new series of programs for two million to deal with – with the resultant finger pointing, frustration, anger, suffering, etc.

The system itself is dysfunctional. The Bank of England ever prints too much money, causing booms and terrible busts. The British government steps in with programs to keep the poor afloat while the economy staggers from crisis to crisis.

And for every individual who has given up and is simply trying to "game the system" there are millions more living miserably from paycheck to paycheck.

It would be so much better if those who created this merciless system would mitigate its consequences by doing something about the actual monetary engine rather than fiddling around at the edges with welfare programs, etc.

After Thoughts

Over time, such systems inevitably degrade while social costs become more extreme. Eventually, the social fabric is so strained that serious civil unrest becomes inevitable.

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