Tories accues Labour of abandoning claimants

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More than 1 million people have either died or retired while claiming Incapacity Benefits (IB) since Labour came to power, Conservatives claimed today.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May claimed the statistic showed that Labour had "abandoned a generation of people" who have been left to languish on benefits at a cost of almost £100 billion since 1997.

The Government have announced plans to reassess all 2.63 million claimants and replace the benefit with the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) after finding that those receiving IB for more than two years were more likely to die or retire than return to work.

Official figures show that almost 900,000 IB claimants died or began claiming the state pension while on the benefit between 1998 and 2007, and Ms May said that if the trend continued in 2008 and 2009 the total must now be over 1 million.

Over half of those claiming IB or ESA have been on benefits for five years or more, she said.

Ms May said: "These are frightening statistics which expose just how badly this Government have abandoned a generation of people who need their hope the most.

"It is a travesty that there are many people on incapacity benefit who want to work and can work but have been left to languish by Labour. We cannot go on like this.

"A Conservative government will reassess everyone on Incapacity Benefit and those who can work will be transferred onto Jobseekers Allowance and given the personalised help they need to get back to work."