Thousands of Fifers receiving benefits due to mental health problems, new data reveals

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Thousands of people in Fife are receiving benefits due to mental and behavioural disorders, figures show.

The Employment and Support Allowance is provided to people who are struggling to work due to long term health conditions. It is available to those unable to work completely, and for people whose hours are limited by their condition.

Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions show 5,247 people in Fife were claiming ESA due to mental or behavioural conditions as of last summer – 46% of the 11,411 claimants in the area. These conditions accounted for almost half of the 1.6 million people claiming the benefit across Great Britain and were the most common reason in every area and region. In Fife, they were followed by 'musculoskeletal' diseases – which includes issues with joints, bones and muscles – with 1,601 people receiving ESA.

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As of December 2023, two million people were on Universal Credit health benefits, including 15,181 in Fife. This was a rise from 1.6 million (12,375 in Fife) a year earlier.

Thousands of people in Fife are receiving benefits due to mental and behavioural disorders, figures show (Pic: HolgersFotografie/Pixabay)Thousands of people in Fife are receiving benefits due to mental and behavioural disorders, figures show (Pic: HolgersFotografie/Pixabay)
Thousands of people in Fife are receiving benefits due to mental and behavioural disorders, figures show (Pic: HolgersFotografie/Pixabay)

Megan Pennell, head of public affairs and campaigns for Mind, said a lack of mental health support – including lengthy waiting lists for NHS mental health services – was keeping people out of the job market.

She said: "We are concerned about the increasing rhetoric suggesting that benefits for disabled people and people experiencing long-term health conditions should be reduced. At the time of a cost-of-living crisis, this is unconscionable.

"People need to be offered tailored support from experts if they are to return to work, not threats of losing what little money they currently have to live on."

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A DWP spokesperson said: "Our landmark welfare reforms will cut the number of people due to be put onto the highest tier of incapacity benefits by over 370,000 and instead give them personalised support, while our Chance to Work Guarantee will mean people can try work without fear of losing their benefits.

"In total our £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan will help over a million people to break down barriers to work, including those with disabilities and long-term health conditions."

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