Analysis: Proper claims scrutiny keeps resources focused

With so much pressure on working taxpayers, they shouldn't be supporting people on incapacity benefits who can work.

It is a kick in the teeth for too many people when they see the unscrupulous exploiting "the sickness" as a means simply to get more benefits rather than specific support for people who really aren't able to work.

It's particularly galling for those north of the Border, who see that this situation is worse in Scotland than it is in England. That is why both the last Labour government and now the coalition have worked to ensure there is proper scrutiny of incapacity claims.

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No assessment is perfect. There have been legitimate appeals by people whose claims haven't been assessed correctly. But that is why the system has been reformed and over time it appears to be getting better.

When people do appeal - and presumably appeals are predominantly from those who feel they have a particularly strong case - they generally lose. The Department for Work and Pensions wins 70 per cent of the time. That rate is up from 60 per cent when the tests were first introduced.

Failing to control incapacity benefits properly would mean it was harder to focus resources on those who need them most. At the same time, it would mean trapping people on benefits who are better off in work rather than sitting at home. Those who are able to find employment should be supported into it, not left in the bleak prospect of permanent dependency.

It isn't easy but welfare reform is vital if we don't want to keep paying a fortune for a welfare system that is failing those it should be there to help.

• Matthew Sinclair is director of the TaxPayers' Alliance.