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Stress, substance abuse benefits determined by Drs

19 March 2006
Media Statement

Sickness and Invalid's Benefits for stress, substance abuse determined by doctors

Eligibility for Sickness or Invalid's Benefit due to stress or substance abuse is determined by medical professionals, says Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope.

Responding to National's Judith Collins Mr Benson-Pope reminded her that it was the National government in 1995, which introduced the ‘stress’ and ‘depression’ categories as distinct categories of mental health condition for benefit purposes, recognising them as legitimate problems.

"There is now recognition of a wider range of mental health conditions, which weren’t always addressed in the past," said Mr Benson-Pope. "However, Work and Income staff assessing applications for Sickness and Invalid's Benefits are absolutely reliant on the professional medical opinion of clinicians. They are not doctors and operate under strict instructions that it is the role of medical professionals to determine the state of a client's health as it might relate to that client's benefit application."

For example, to qualify medically for an Invalid's Benefit a client needs to be assessed as having a sickness, injury or disability expected to continue for at least two years which prevents the person from regularly working 15 hours or more. Where it is likely these clients would improve within two years as a result of counselling, treatment or rehabilitation, the person will not qualify for an Invalid's Benefit.

"I am not surprised that Judith Collins continues to attack beneficiaries, but her latest outburst is nothing short of an attack on the integrity of medical professionals. It is very disappointing."

Mr Benson-Pope also noted that in the latest year to December the growth rate of both Sickness and Invalids Benefit fell to 2.7 percent: "Sickness and Invalid's Benefits grew at a rate of 69 percent and 84 percent respectively under the National government. We are getting on top of a trend that was out of control under National," said Mr Benson-Pope.

ENDS

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