The idea that Labour failed to reduce the Incapacity Benefit caseload - a dominant theme in the party’s post-election autopsy - is largely a myth, and is based on misconceptions about the geography, age and gender patterns of benefit receipt. In fact Incapacity Benefit receipt
fell substantially from 1997 to the present, but disability benefit receipt (which is payable to all people living with disability, whether or not they are unemployed) rose – partly because of demographic factors, but also because of increases in claims associated with mental health
and learning difficulties. The key point here is that long-term out of work benefit receipt is increasingly dominated by people living with more severe disabling conditions, and by people caring for the disabled. To construct from this an argument about dependency being responsible for worklessness
is to deliberately misread the evidence.
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