Disability benefits for anxiety and depression have doubled in ten years

Official figures show that disability benefits for anxiety and depression have increased by a factor of two hundred in the past decade.

According to data from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), almost £1.6 billion is spent every year on Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for the two mental health problems.

By comparison, the figure was £7.5 million when it was introduced in 2013.

Official forecasts also show that spending on poor health care through the same program will reach £33 billion by 2029 – up from just under £19 billion last year.

Experts warned that greater awareness and 'changing attitudes' towards mental health issues could be behind the rise.

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Others suggested that cuts to other benefits and pressure on the cost of living may have pushed more people to make a claim.

Under the PIP scheme, recipients who need help due to illness, disability or mental health problems can receive up to £172 per week.

The scheme was launched in April 2013 and in its first year, £7.5 million was distributed to people for anxiety or depression disorders.

It aims to help people with a long-term illness, disability or mental health condition to live a more independent life, by covering the additional costs incurred by their illness.

The government says people could be eligible for PIP mobility benefits if they have 'difficulty getting around due to a cognitive or mental health condition, such as anxiety'.

These may also include those who have difficulty leaving their homes.

The DWP data on real PIP spending shows that mental health and learning disabilities now represent around £6 billion of annual adult spending.

Anxiety and depression were the main reason for adults to receive sick pay £1.6 billion per year.

Forecasts from the Department for Work and Pensions also show that the total cost of PIP spending will rise to £32.8 billion by 2028/2029.

In 2022/2023, an amount of £18.7 billion was recorded.

The 2.9 million people currently receiving disability benefits are also expected to rise to 4.7 million.

Experts have long warned that Britain's deteriorating health would lead to a wave of new PIP claims.

Estimates from the Office for National Statistics last year showed that the impact of the UK crisis on the cost of living left depression rates at much higher levels than before the Covid pandemic.

In August, charity Citizens Advice also revealed that more than 430,000 people were awaiting a PIP assessment, with some facing delays of more than two years.

Officials believe the rise in anxiety and depression benefits is driven by an older and sicker population, as well as greater awareness of mental health issues and a cost-of-living crisis that is causing more people to claim support.

A government source said this The times: 'The driving forces behind rising expenditure on disability benefits are complex.

'Changing attitudes to mental health, the shadow of Covid and inflation are all involved.'

They added: “This government is not afraid to make long-term decisions on welfare reform. Labor won't go near this stuff.'

David Finch, deputy director of think tank the Health Foundation, also noted that people are now more aware of mental health issues.

He said: 'The pandemic has led to an increase in the number of people reporting mental health problems, and then you've had the cost of living crisis, and those things have exacerbated an underlying trend.

But cuts to other benefits and the cost of living crisis could also have led to others claiming PIP.

He added: 'People who might previously have been able to get by on other benefits and might not have thought about claiming disability elements, and might not have thought of themselves as disabled, might be thinking 'actually I've got that extra support now necessary”.'

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson, meanwhile, said the government would 'remove barriers for millions of people by removing the fear of reassessment for claimants who want to work'.

They added: 'We are investing £2.3 billion in mental health care and making long-term decisions on welfare reform that will grow the economy and change lives.'