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Psychologists, not GPs, for benefit testing

Media Statement
For immediate release
Monday, 23 February, 2004

Turner: Psychologists, not GPs, for benefit testing

Specialist psychologists rather than general practitioners need to be making the diagnoses of psychological problems as sickness and invalid benefits spiral in those categories, United Future's social welfare spokeswoman, Judy Turner, said today.

Ministry of Social Development figures obtained by Mrs Turner show that from 1999 to 2003, the number of sickness beneficiaries increased by almost a third - from 33,257 to 42,779 (29%).

Over the same period, the number of invalid beneficiaries increased similarly, from 53,332 to 71,052 (33%).

"The most common form of incapacity for each benefit continues to be psychological conditions, comprising 15,293 (36%) of all sickness beneficiaries and 29,773 (42%) of all invalid beneficiaries," Mrs Turner said.

"However, the most significant worry is that psychological conditions appear to be the biggest driver behind the total increase - and the Government needs to ensure that a clinically rigorous diagnosis is made in these matters so there is no suspicion that it is some soft option on to the benefit.

"Of the total increase in sickness beneficiaries since 1999 of 9522, those claiming psychological problems comprised 5468 or 57%.

"Invalid beneficiaries with psychological disorders increased by 5783, comprising 33% of the total increase of 17,720 invalids benefits since 1999," Mrs Turner said. While the Government has said it will look at funding medical procedures to assist sickness beneficiaries back into the workforce, that is of no value in dealing with the fastest growing category of concern - psychological problems, she said.

Ends.

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