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What is the problem, exactly? The distribution of Incapacity Benefit claimants' conditions across British regions

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There is an entrenched regional hierarchy in the spatial distribution of Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants in Great Britain: the ratio of claimants to population is two to three times higher in the 'North' than it is in the 'South', and whilst some convergence has occurred since numbers stopped growing towards the end of 2003, the gap has changed relatively little. Just as important though, from a practical policy point of view, there is also a marked regional differentiation in the relative importance of the medical conditions from which IB claimants suffer. For example, about one third of males in the 'South' are unable to work due to 'mental and behavioural disorders', whilst the proportion in the 'North' is under a quarter; whilst the converse is true of 'diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue'. Clearly, as the 'roll-out' of Pathways to Work gathers pace with its offer of a 'condition management programme' to claimants, and the new regime for those unable to work due to sickness is introduced, those charged with planning and managing the 're-activation' of benefit claimants need to have a more spatially informed understanding of the dimensions of the problem they are to address. This article seeks to help fill this information gap by investigating the cross-regional distribution of conditions and its connection with the cross-regional distribution of claimant numbers.
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Keywords: Incapacity Benefit; illness; welfare reform

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Belfast, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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