Work accident victims not claiming benefit

ALMOST half the victims of serious industrial disease and accidents at work fail to apply for state compensation, according to a report published yesterday by the National Audit Office.

An official survey of 940 people injured at work found that 203 were so seriously affected they were absent for at least three months, or stopped work altogether. Yet 89 of the 203 did not make a claim under the Industrial Injuries Scheme - and 59 of those said they had not heard of it.

The report says publicity for the scheme should be improved and better targeted to increase awareness.

Doctors also have difficulties in deciding the extent of claimants' disabilities, which they must define in terms of percentages. A 10 per cent disability rates pounds 9.16 a week under the scheme, while someone with 100 per cent disability gets pounds 91.60 a week.

The scheme was introduced in 1948 to provide help for those suffering from industrial accidents or disease. In 1992-93, the Benefits Agency paid pounds 663m to 320,000 people.

But the report pointed out that it was a complex scheme and expensive to operate.

Adminstrative costs were pounds 56m in 1991-92, equivalent to 8.5 per cent of expenditure on the benefit. This compares with an average 3.2 per cent for the overall social security programme.