By politics.co.uk staff
Nearly four out of ten people applying for a key sickness benefit were found fit to work, official figures show.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that, when those who stopped their claim before a medical assessment were taken into account, three-quarters of people were being turned away.
Thirty-nine per cent of those who applied for employment and support allowance between October 2008 and August 2010 were judged to be fit for work.
A further 36% closed their claim before the assessment was completed. Sixteen per cent entered a work related activity group, six per cent joined a support group and two per cent continue to be assessed.
Employment minister Chris Grayling said the figures showed "clear evidence of the need to change the welfare system".
He said the figures showed that the vast majority of new claimants for sickness benefits were in fact able to return to work and pledged to focus attention on existing claimants as a result.
"We are reassessing all of those claimants, and launching the Work Programme to provide specialist back to work support," Mr Grayling added.
"We will, of course, carry on providing unconditional support to those who cannot work, but for those who can it's right and proper that they start back on the road to employment."
The DWP is implementing a major shake-up of the benefits system, which will see a number of old benefits rolled into a single universal credit.
Officials said the work capability assessment, which determines whether someone is fit for work, has already been substantially improved.