A TORY minister has insisted concern for people’s mental health may have gone “too far”.

Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph he feared some people were now “convincing themselves they have some kind of serious mental health condition as opposed to the normal anxieties of life.”

He added he had concerns about people who have concerns about their mental health “driving up the benefit bill”.

Stride was making the comment to defend changes to the work capability assessment, a process used to decide when people qualify for sickness benefits because they are too ill to work.

The Government is making the rules stricter with plans to make 150,000 people signed off work with “mild” conditions look for a job.

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He told the paper: “While I’m grateful for today’s much more open approach to mental health, there is a danger that this has gone too far.

“There is a real risk now that we are labelling the normal ups and downs of human life as medical conditions which then actually serve to hold people back and, ultimately, drive up the benefit bill…

“If they go to the doctor and say ‘I’m feeling rather down and bluesy’, the doctor will give them on average about seven minutes and then, on 94% of occasions, they will be signed off as not fit to carry out any work whatsoever.”

He added “an honest, grown-up debate” was needed.

“It is too important for people and their futures, too important for the way that welfare works and too important for the economy to just ignore.”

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While opening himself up to this debate, Stride now has another issue on his hands after a major report concluded women born in the 1950s impacted by changes to the state pension age are owed compensation.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman said the Department for Work and Pensions has “clearly indicated” it will refuse to comply with the recommendation and Parliament has subsequently been asked to intervene and ensure a compensation scheme is set up.

The DWP has also been told to apologise for its failings.