More than 80,000 Britons claim payments for long-term sick leave because of obesity or drug or alcohol addiction, contributing to a 7 billion pound annual bill for Incapacity Benefit, the government said on Thursday.
Out of these, more than 21,200 alcoholics and drug addicts have been receiving the payments for over 10 years, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
“Far from being the safety net it should be, the benefits system has trapped thousands of people in a cycle of addiction and welfare dependency with no prospect of getting back to work,” Employment Minister Chris Grayling said in a statement.
As part of its welfare reforms, the government has started reassessing the circumstances of 1.9 million people off work on Incapacity Benefit to see if they are fit enough to return to employment.
Ministers promise more help to those out of work but threaten sanctions against those who avoid getting a job.
The changes are politically risky and could provoke a public backlash, coming at a time of rising unemployment, state spending cuts and an economy weakened after a deep recession.