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Labour shifts blame for sickness benefit scam

Judith Collins MP National Party Welfare Spokeswoman

28 May 2008

Labour shifts blame for sickness benefit scam to GPs

National's Welfare spokeswoman, Judith Collins, is appalled that Labour is now blaming doctors for making it easy for beneficiaries to be shifted from the unemployment benefit to the sickness benefit.

Ms Collins says Labour has spent years denying that this practice exists, despite GPs up and down the country complaining they are being pressured to give able-bodied people the green light to collect the sickness benefit.

"Now, after being exposed by Work and Income's own chief health advisor, David Bratt, who admits the practice is 'regularly brought to our attention', and that Work and Income staff need more training in this area, Labour says it will produce a handbook for GPs to help them determine whether someone is too sick to work.

"I am sure doctors will be shocked that Labour is questioning their ability to make a medical assessment. GPs don't need handbooks.

"What they need is for the Labour Government to admit it is turning a blind eye to a practice which doctors say is rife in some areas of the country.

"They need Ruth Dyson and Work and Income to admit they are failing beneficiaries and failing doctors because Labour is more focused on pushing people on to sickness benefits to make unemployment benefit numbers look better."

Ms Collins says that Darren Hughes, in answering on behalf of Ruth Dyson today, told Parliament that Labour hadn't received any 'actual letters' about the practice and added 'we've been having conversations, obviously' [with GPs].

"No amount of sophistry is going to pull Labour out of this mess. Work and Income's own health expert is now contradicting the Government's claim.

"I have been stonewalled for years by Labour, which has continually claimed there is no evidence doctors are being pressured. It is now time for Ruth Dyson to release all the information held by her department regarding this practice.

"If Work and Income's chief health advisor claims Work and Income is very aware of doctor bullying, and that it regularly gets brought to the department's attention, it defies belief that there is no paper trail.

"Ruth Dyson must come clean."


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