Medics shocked as out-of-work drug addicts and alcoholics receive £7.4m in benefits
DRUG addicts and alcoholics have received more than £7 million in benefits in just two years – after claiming their 'illness' leaves them unable to work.
Figures obtained by The Sentinel show 1,040 claimants have pocketed incapacity benefit after giving 'alcoholism' as the main medical reason for them not getting a job in the past two years.
A further 500 people gave 'drug abuse' as their main reason for claiming the handouts.
The total amount received since 2010 across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire is £7.4 million.
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The data has shocked medics working to reduce the problems caused by alcohol and drugs across the region.
And benefit claimants who have been classed as fit to work by the DWP despite suffering serious disabilities have also criticised the payments.
Medically-retired nurse Judith Streeton was earlier this year deemed fit for work by a Job Centre health assessment – despite recovering from breast cancer and suffering debilitating osteoporosis.
The 49-year-old, of Hanford, whose benefits were later reinstated, said: "I know people can become addicted to drink and drugs but they don't have to do it. It's not like an illness or an injury.
"Their money probably goes on more drink or drugs, so in some cases we're probably funding their habit.
"And if they are getting these benefits shouldn't they have to prove they are fighting to escape their addictions?"
Mike Jones, clinical director of CJI Ltd, a Longton-based alcoholism and drug addiction clinic, said: "This is a double-edged sword because you have to support people who find themselves unable to work through drugs or alcohol, but they have to want to get better. In terms of alcohol, it can seriously affect motivation and if someone's lost a job, they are not going to be motivated to get another one. It can be a complete disaster."
Under-25s claiming employment support allowance (ESA) – which used to be known as incapacity benefit – receive a standard weekly rate of £56.25, with over-25s receiving £71.
DWP records show 66,090 people across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire have claimed just over £338 million for a range of medical reasons over the last two financial years.
A DWP spokesman said: "ESA is paid to people based on how their condition affects their ability to work.
"The majority of decisions are based on a face-to-face assessment and consideration of all the accompanying medical evidence.
"People are also regularly re-assessed to see if there has been any change in their condition or their ability to work."