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Incapacitated on Radio 4

Emma Emma | 12:08 UK time, Friday, 7 November 2008

We wanted to draw your attention to a 30 minute Radio 4 documentary, investigating incapacity benefit.

Incapacitated sees Dr Ben Goldacre explore "the parlous state of the incapacity benefits system, an eight billion pound legacy created by party politics and unthinking medics."

In the light of a tough new benefits system for sick and disabled people, "Ben discovers that, after being on incapacity benefit for more than two years, you are statistically more likely to die or retire than ever find work again. He asks how this can have been allowed to happen and considers whether the new government plans will help."

Incapacitated will be available on Iplayer after it has been broadcast on 10 November at 8 PM..

Let us know your views on the programme using the comments below.


  • Comment number 1.

    "Ben discovers that, after being on incapacity benefit for more than two years, you are statistically more likely to die or retire than ever find work again."

    Would this not be the major difference between the type of long-term incapacitating illness or injury from which people recover gradually, over the course of, say, a year's therapy and rehab... and the type of long-term incapacitating illness or injury from which there IS no recovery?

  • Comment number 2.


    I have been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit since 2001. Before recieving this benefit I was claiming job seekers allowance from 1991. In all of this time I searched for jobs, endless interviews only to tell me that I have been unsuccessful and wish me well for the future. the nearest I could get to a full time job was temporary positions through agencies and being further messed around by employers and their fickle needs towards temporary work force. I wasn't wanting much only a typing job which I am fully qualified to do and to see me through with regards to my finances. All of these years from 1990 my life was taken over in search for employment even though I had a more responsible job to do and that was to look after my young son born in 1990. As the years went by up to 2000 I eventually relized that the constant knock backs for permanent work and fickle people towards temporary employees took it's toll sapping out any confidence I had leaving me in a situation where I was let down and feeling an outcast. I had a choice of signing at the job centre week by week, year by year, because a fundemental choice to work was not being given to me. I relized that before you can get a job you have to be given a job and when you are at the mercy of people who either like or dont like your face you will never get that job even if you are equipped with more than enough qualifications. In order to take away this stress and now depression I went to the doctors and signed off job seekers allowance to recieved incapacity benefit this helped a little bit. Mrs Whitticombe should be more truthful about the legacy dumped on GP's and admit that if the GP had not been there for me in that I could sign for Incapacity Benefit nobody would have been there and I would have still been signing week after week year after year on job seekers allowance going nowhere. It is absolutely disgraceful how you seem to blame people who cannot get a job that it is their fault and just think that because they are in receipt of a benefit signing for job seekers allowance to shove the situation under the carpet and now that you have not found a better answer for this jobless situation and people have found a little more help from their doctor you are now picking on this outlet as if non working people who could not successfully get a job in the first place have created it. You seem to be satisfied about people signing on job seekers allowance week after week, year after year, never getting a job and leaving them at the wayside afterall, a person signing on for this many years in receipt of allowance and job seeker delegated legislation still accepting this is nothing short of cruelty as long as people on the otherside of the counter are in work and employed.

    You need a better system of job seekers allowance and not people just sitting behind a desk giving advice because, it is not them that give them the job it is the fickle people at the employers who need to be given strickter legislation and closely monitored in order that a person does successfully get that fundemental job and not use job seekers plus to shield, camourflage,screen unemployment also, not to pander to political whims and when people are on job seekers allowance because they cannot get a job they should get properly paid to sustain their dignity and wellbeing and may be incapacity benefit would be eradicated.

    Lastly, if there was a country to diminish your confidence, this is certainly the country to do it

    carol curtis

  • Comment number 3.

    Sorry Carol but I disagree with your write up for the following reasons:-

    1) We live in a country that actually gives you enough money to budget a healthy living if you know how- with the opportunity to do voluntary work to gain experience and add to work credentials. This helps you and others.

    2) Having had health problems most of my life in one way or another I have only been 'unemployed' when I was really too ill to think and walk. I took whatever voluntary work there was until I could get paid employment and careers to boot. I am now 60 and not retired, studying and doing voluntary work on a pension.
    3. The work place is a tough one and no one is going to do your work for you or stop doing theirs to constantly prop a collegue who expects so much of others without putting in the same effort and respect.

    Whatever your skills are, they can be used to the best of your ability - like the blind, crippled girl I met typing on a braille typewriter in the CAB office two days a week; the paraplegic in a wheelchair writing articles for a magazine then a book etc etc etc. Start where you are now, set a goal long term then lots of small steps to it in task form. If the first is being a student and doing volutary work for experience - you are on your way to success already with enough money to eat with a roof over your head and not having to sleep out on the pavement and sell 'The Big Issue'. Now that is work and they do need the money. Stay positive Carol and others.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Ben discovers that, after being on incapacity benefit for more than two years, you are statistically more likely to die or retire than ever find work again. He asks how this can have been allowed to happen and considers whether the new government plans will help."


    Well that's not really surprising.

    Surely in this day and age where in a lot of cases every attempt is made to allow those with disabilities of any nature to return to work as soon as possible, thiose who are still on incapacity after 2 years are probably those who are facing the most severe and permanent problems.

    Most who sustain a temporary incapacity (be it physical such as a broken leg or otherwise such as stress related illnesses) should make a recovery well before 2 years, at least to the point of being able to return in some capacity. Those with a permanent problem can also have learnt to cope with it and found alternative arrangements.

    To still be incapacitated after two years one would have to assume that the condition is so severe and debilitating as to making the ability to work a mute point anyway.

    Of course there are exceptions, Carol points out one of them. Buit they will not be the majority and in most cases there is still plenty that can be done in those cases.

    I agree that for some with certain problems it is very difficult and frustrating to find a job, however by the very nature of that circumstnace, if the person is able to work then they should not be on incapacity. Also as pointed out there is much that can be done to help yourself. Charity work might seem demeening to most people but it doesn't all have to be about a shift in the oxfam shop or handing out food vouchers.

    There are many organisations that are crying out for volunteer typists, administrators, article writers and trademen, all of which is real practical experience that is tranferrable to the commercials world. In a lot of cases there is also the chance to recieve additional official training in these roles as well.

  • Comment number 5.

    BettyHur - your argument is flawed for the simple reason that Access to Work is not available to volunteers. If you are a blind person you may need specialist equipment or one-to-one support for certain tasks. You'd get that in paid employment, but not in voluntary roles, meaning that you can't gain the experience you need to get a paid job.

    We need to change this if we want more disabled people to get into the work place.

    Couple this with the discrimination and stigma that often goes hand in hand with disability, especially learning disability, and the lack of employers' knowledge of schemes like Access to Work (something like 5% of employers have even heard of it) and it's easy to see why disabled people find it hard to gain employment.

    Good for you that you have managed to find voluntary and paid work despite your ongoing health probs, but you surely need to accept that everyone's different and not everyone does find it as easy as you have.

    Also, don't use the word 'crippled' on here again. Please. Ta.

  • Comment number 6.

    oh, and I'm really looking forward to the show. About time someone tried to tackle this, and Ben Goldacre's the best journalist out there.

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree that the law needs to be stricter with employers. We live in a computer age. Jobs are being outsourced to India and Africa yet we cannot be economically active in the UK.
    Employers are ignoring DDA legislation because they realise that the sick and disabled do not have the resources to take them on, and even then only a quarter of cases succeed.

  • Comment number 8.

    What a wonderfully balanced view of people on incapacity benefit. It was so kind of Ben to explain that we're all on benefit just because it was politically expedient and that a few sessions with a counsellor will get us all back to work.

    What a pity he forgot to mention inadequate NHS treatment, poor compliance by employers with the DDA and impairments that simply don't allow for holding down a job. (Unless you're Stephen Hawking.)

  • Comment number 9.

    I've just spent four hellish years fighting my employer (a nationally known company who should know better) to get recognition that my disability means my productivity will be lower than that of my peers (absolutely vital in a company with purely performance related pay increases). In other words exactly the reasonable adjustment I'm entitled too under the DDA -- it's even one of the examples in the EHRC's best practise guide for employers. They've fought me every step of the way and are in the process of trying to making me redundant, for which it's clear my disability pre-selected me. I honestly don't know if I have the energy to face all of that again with another company.

    Until and unless the DDA is given real teeth disabled people will continue to be forced out of the job market and onto benefits for the convenience of employers and it's about time the media acknowledged that we are the sinned against, not the sinners.

  • Comment number 10.

    I was very interested in the programme but was out jogging in the rain when it was on so was unable to write down the name of the group that the Family GPs are using to help people to restore their confidence and get back into work . I wonder if anyone could let me have this information. I agree that Ben is a superb journalist.

  • Comment number 11.

    The subject of state "benefits" is a very complex, controversial and sensitive issue; particularly with the current worries about the future of the economy.
    The name of benefits are continually being changed due to different government views and natural evolution of World changes. eg. unemployment benefit -> job seekers allowance; long-term unemployment benefit -> incapacity benefit.

    Obviously, someone who through no fault of their own finds themselves without paid work for a long period of time will be "ground down financially" and be in need of some kind of further assistance. In times of high unemployment, the likelyhood of helping them to return to work is obviously diminished.
    The fact that some people abuse the benefits system, through greed or otherwise, should not change the responsibility of society(and therefore government), to support the worst off people in the country (similar to a minumum wage?? £60 a week's not much is it?).
    I am concerned that the Department of Social Security has been systematically taken apart and crime and anti-social behaviour will be seriously on the increase.
    Will Disability living Allowance be the next DWP benefit to be transferred to Inland Revenue?
    And what's more, the gap in wealth between the fortunate and unfortunate members of society has happened in a more prosperous era under a Labour Government!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Oh! and I agree whole heartedly with carol curtis regards the huge responsibility of looking after a child / children. The mother is the most important person in their life and if given adequate support, preferably in a 2 parent family if possible, they are more likely to grow up and be an asset to society rather than a burden.

    I wish carol and those in a similar position good health and luck in finding employment that suits their family situations.


  • Comment number 13.

    I recently attended a workshop designed to get those on IB back to work. I suffer from a spinal injury involving many discs and degeneration to my spine resulting in my inability to be a reliable or dependable employee should anyone daft enough ever wish to employ me. I have flare ups often and my back can 'go' without any reason, I have pain every day. In short I wouldn't employ me! I would, in an ideal world, love to go back to work but unless the bad back fairy can wave her magic wand and cure me, I don't believe it is a realistic aspiration. I now live on 25% of what I used to earn-not something anyone would willingly do. However despite a degree and over 13 years in the NHS, a young lady from the workshop told me I should look at jobs as a receptionist and if asked about my health on an application form she suggested that I should omit my problems in order to be considered for work!! (This is the advice people are getting). In other words unless I lie about my problem, I am unemployable. The downside is if I do not mention my problems, any employer is not obliged to make provisions for my condition, but who cares as long as the government reaches its targets! As the show mentioned, people receiving IB are a diverse population and are not getting the individual consideration each case merits. I feel I have been put with a group that has been diluted in response to a political problem yet is now being targeted harshly. It is very hard psychologically to deal with not working, the attitudes of people do not help. I do not use a walking stick, I am not in a wheelchair, I am relatively young and if you saw me you would think I looked capable. I do not like people to know I have these problems because I am ashamed that I live on benefits, my family have a strong work ethic which adds to my shame. I am at a loss as to the answer for someone like me. I was good at my job and would still have no problem finding work if I was able to, despite the current climate. My surgeon told me over ten years ago, that I needed a job lying on my back! If anyone knows of such work minus the obvious suggestions, where I will not be subject to minimum wage piecemeal work, that will make use of my past work experience and professional qualifications where I can improve my lot and aim higher rather than lower, that is happy to employ someone who may not be able to turn up on a regular basis, let the job centre know...

  • Comment number 14.

    It is very difficult for anyone to know how stressful it can be dealing with the benefit system especially if you are a genuine claimant. Hence it does not work for the right people. I had my benefit stopped for 2 years even though i was worse than i am now, and illegally had to sign on fit for work. then i had to wait 6 months to get 'disability' again. I do not like it being called that and it probably has a bad effect on people although i think the name is changing. I work quite hard within strict limits and do charity and research work but cannot hold down regular employment.
    Also as soon as someone might be well enough to do something they get hounded to work part or full time and suddenly have to pay rates, rent, etc. and then delays if they have to claim again. Hence the negative effect of 'getting better' especially for 'nervous disorders', which does not serve individuals or society. I think the benefit system should be scrapped. It seems to cause stigma, resentment and stress to those who least need it at the worse times of their life and is far too complex. I think more people would work if everyone with a NI number was paid a basic living allowance and taxed on everything earned - especially as we are not allowed or are unable to self-sufficiently live without money. It could work for students, pensioners, self-employed, carers, good parenting, the environment and living with personal morality, unbiased advice, small and large businesses; and allow greater social cohesion and reduce stress and therefore pressure on services and costs such as the nhs. (How much does the benefit system cost to administer ?)
    I was made very ill by an unrequired medically prescribed drug, and also probably by the prolonged stress of claiming benefits.
    My friend, unfairly dismissed from his long-term job has so far received £8.65 total benefits in 14 weeks. 5 weeks ago he had a stroke a week after his last pay-packet ran out. He has no help with forms and was told he could not use the job centre telephones to change the claim to sickness (0800 number) and had to use a payphone in the freezing cold. Apparently he should have said that he did not have a landline; and is supposed to know about and be able to claim 'hardship benefit'. He is expected to walk around collecting evidence which twice has been lost even though the physio said he should not do so. Luckily he still has heating and has not been made homeless.
    Not the simple view the daily mail has about 'benefit scroungers'.


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