February 8, 2023

Deteriorating health in Britain has doubled in the number of new claims for disability benefits over the past year, according to a report.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said claims for the Personal Independence Allowance (Pip) had doubled to 30,000 per month between the summer of 2021 and July this year, with no signs of slowing down.

In stark contrast to years of relatively little change in the number of Pip awards given out by the Department of Work and Pensions, it said the recent rise in recipients had occurred across a range of medical conditions and ages, with the fastest rise among teens, where claim rates have tripled.

The IFS said the figures suggested the increase was caused by a deterioration in the health of the population, “something for which there is now evidence in a number of sources”.

Labor seized the report as the latest sign that years of under-investment in the health and social care system and wider public services among the Conservatives contributed to record levels of illness among working-age adults, more people on NHS waiting lists and growing backlogs of people waiting for help.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Ministers cannot ignore these findings. The backlog in assessing disability benefits needs to be addressed and employment support reformed, as Labor has proposed, to provide specialist assistance to those seeking employment.”

The IFS said that regardless of the causes, the effects of deteriorating health and increasing claims for disability benefits would contribute to higher government spending on Social Security. There are currently 2.8 million claimants, whose payments cost the state £15 billion a year.

“This increase could certainly bring in several billion more,” said Sam Ray-Chaudhuri, research economist at IFS and author of the report. “We’re seeing a doubling of claims at virtually every age and for most serious conditions, from mental illness to arthritis and back pain.”

The study found that about a third of new claims related to mental illness, although that figure rose to 70% among claimants under the age of 25.

Rising claims for disability benefits have also led to a backlog of about 250,000 people waiting for their claims to be assessed. The IFS said that while this doesn’t appear to have increased waiting times, at an average of 18 weeks, they were already long.

It’s because estimates from the Office for National Statistics have shown that the impact of the crisis on Britain’s cost of living has kept depression rates at much higher levels than before the Covid pandemic.

According to the figures, one in six adults had moderate to severe depressive symptoms last month. While similar to the rates found in the summer last year, it is six percentage points higher than before the Covid pandemic broke out in March 2020.

Linking elevated levels of depression to the cost-of-living crisis, the study found that people who struggled with utility bills, rent or a mortgage, or were forced to borrow to make ends meet, were more likely to experience this. to suffer in autumn.

Tim Vizard from the ONS said: “While levels of depression remain similar to a year ago, they are significantly above pre-pandemic levels. We certainly continue to see that adults who are having problems with their finances are more likely to have some form of depression, highlighting some of the challenges adults across the country face.

According to the country’s mental health snapshot, rates of depression were higher among adults who were economically inactive due to long-term illness, as well as among unpaid carers, disabled adults, people living in the most deprived areas of England, young adults, and women.

Up to 59% of adults who were economically inactive due to long-term ill health experienced depression.

The research comes as official figures show a sharp rise in labor market inactivity since 2019 linked to long-term illness, including mental and nervous system disorders.

Economic inactivity – when people aged between 16 and 64 are neither working nor looking for a new job – has soared since the outbreak of the pandemic, contributing to Britain’s status as the only country in the OECD group of advanced economies with total employment still below the norm. pre-Covid peak.

Leading experts, including former Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane, have questioned whether the NHS’s backlogs and underfunding of health care and other public services played a role.

A government spokesman said: “There is a strong safety net for people with long-term illness and disability and over the next three years the government will invest £1.3bn in job support for those affected to help more people start, stay and succeed in work .

“We also have a range of employment initiatives to help people with long-term health conditions, including support from tailored job coaches.”

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