Stricter sick rules push up ‘last resort’ benefit claims

Stricter rules for claimants of sick benefits and unemployment insurance benefits has led to a larger number of Swedes applying for social benefits, the last-resort benefits provided by local authorities.

The centre-right Alliance government, which came to power in 2006, has made it harder to claim sickness and unemployment benefits, particularly over a long period. The changes to sick benefits have had a particularly large impact, according to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR):

“The Swedish Social Insurance Administration’s policy changes and stricter rules has meant increased costs for council social services,” said SALAR’s Leif Klingensjö.

The conclusions are based on a survey of 24 municipalities, with a combined population of 2.3 million. Half of the councils said costs had increased since the clampdown on sick benefits.

Union SKTF, which represents social workers, said a survey of 360 of its members confirmed the trend.

“The picture they give is that they are seeing more and more clients that they had not previously encountered,” said SKTF chairwoman Eva Nordmark.

Social benefits are awarded on a needs basis – a single person without children might expect to receive around 3,500 kronor per month, as well as extra money to cover costs such as housing. This is significantly less than sick benefits, which entitle people to initial benefits of 80 percent of previous income up to a ceiling.