Town tops North-East illness claims league table

FIGURES have revealed Hartlepool as the ‘sickest town’ in the North- East for the number of people on health-related benefits.

FIGURES have revealed Hartlepool as the ‘sickest town’ in the North- East for the number of people on health-related benefits.

Latest Government figures show Hartlepool has the highest proportion of people claiming benefit for sickness and disabilities that leave them unable to work in the region.

Hartlepool has 6,110 people claiming employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit because they are unable to work through illness or disability.

It accounts for 10.5 per cent of people of working age in the town and is the highest in the North- East, and 17th highest nationwide. There are also 630 people who are registered disabled in the town, which is the seventh highest proportion in the region.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond it is partly down to the legacy of Hartlepool’s industrial past that has left generations with lasting health problems.

The town also has an unenviable record for the number of people who suffer health problems because they are smokers or abuse alcohol.

Mayor Drummond said: “We have always traditionally had a high level of people on these benefits. We are, in certain situations, not a healthy area. Peoples’ health generally is not as good as other places.

“The solution isn’t going to happen overnight and tacking health problems is going to take a generation.

“I think there is a legacy from the heavy industry in the North East and certain ilnesses and injuries linked with that will reduce in time.”

But a huge amount of work is being carried out to tackle health problems and promote healthy lifestyles.

The town’s rate of adult smokers was 21.9 per cent in 2010/11, which is higher than the England average which is 21 per cent and a six-month investigation into alcohol abuse showed almost 30 per cent of Hartlepool’s drinking population downed more than the recommended daily amount of three to four units for men and two to three units for women.

It comes as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in town said there has been a huge rise in people appealing for help after being kicked off the benefit as part of the Government’s drive to get people into work.

CAB chiefs say at least 10 people a week are contacting them after failing medicals for the all new employment and support allowance, which is replacing the Government’s incapacity benefit.

This is compared to 12 months ago when between three and five people sought help on the issue.

Manager Joe Michna said one woman had plates inserted into her spine, while a man with severe depression and anxiety was refused the benefit, although both were reinstated on appeal.

Mayor Drummond added: “The changes to the benefit system are going to be nothing short of disasterous for Hartlepool.

“The Governemnt would argue that they are helping by giving benefits, but I think the help could be given by phasing these chnges in over time.

“I have a little bit of sympathy for the Government that people shouldn’t rely on benefits, but ripping the rug out from under people isn’t the way to do it.

“I don’t know wthat they expect people to do. I have concerns that people could turn to crime and we could have untold problems in the town.”