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Conservative claims about benefits are not just spin, they're making it up

Government ministers like Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Shapps are misrepresenting official statistics for political gain


In the past three weeks, readers of mainstream UK newspapers have learned a number of things about the UK social security system and those who rely on it. They have learned that 878,000 claimants have left employment and support allowance (ESA) to avoid a tough new medical assessment; that thousands have rushed to make claims for disability living allowance (DLA) before a new, more rigorous, assessment is put in place; and that one in four of those set to be affected by the government's benefit cap have moved into work in response to the policy. These stories have a number of things in common. Each is based on an official statistic. Each tells us about how claimants have responded to welfare policy changes. Each includes a statement from a member of the government. And each is demonstrably inaccurate.


Full story can be read here -



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See this "Austerity" thing? There appears to have been a programming error...




This error is needed to get the results they published, and it would go a long way to explaining why it has been impossible for others to replicate these results. If this error turns out to be an actual mistake Reinhart-Rogoff made, well, all I can hope is that future historians note that one of the core empirical points providing the intellectual foundation for the global move to austerity in the early 2010s was based on someone accidentally not updating a row formula in Excel.



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Persecuting the poor on an industrial scale is the only card the Tories have left

April 15th, 2013


First they hired Atos, the French IT firm, to hack down the recipients of Incapacity Benefit by up to 70% – regardless of the human consequences for those with serious disability. Then Jobcentre staff confirmed that it is widespread practice to set targets for removing benefits, though the DWP spin uses the much more delicate language of ‘benchmarks’ or ‘expectations for the number of sanctions levied’. League tables are in operation to chivvy reluctant jobcentres into achieving a higher number of ‘hits’ against the unemployed – a leaked email showed that Walthamstow was doing very badly, 95th out of only 109 jobcentres in London and the Home Counties in the sanctions hierarchy against the jobless. Now the disabled, 3.2 million of them, are being shunted off DLA into an alternative system called ‘personal independence payments’ (PIP), the stated aim of which is to cut the cost of the benefit by 20% by 2015-6 – again regardless of the impact on the disabled. They are being put through the DWP wringer at the rate of 11,000 a week which can only mean that the assessments will be cursory and in many cases wrong. The government has already decided what the result will be because they have already announced that by 2018 about 607,000 fewer people will be getting DLA or PIPs.


What this very precise figure giving the conclusion of all these assessments clearly reveals is that the government have already decided at the outset what the end results will be. These are not examinations on their merits. The assessments are already pre-determined, pre-packaged, with strict codes and roles set down by DWP in order to obtain a pre-ordained result. Human concerns and sensitivities hardly get a look in, as can be seen from the arbitrary reduction in the test for walking capability from 50 metres to 20 metres in order to hone back further the threshold for disability.


What is so awful about this whole procedure is that it is not about seriously getting people into work, it’s purely about drastic reductions in the number of benefit recipients and thus in DWP expenditure. If it were really about getting people back into employment, it requires major changes in policy:


1 Above all an economic policy is needed which will promote jobs and growth, not the reduction in jobs and growth which semi-permanent stagnation entails – and as it happens, the former would be far more effective in cutting the budget deficit as well.


2 People who have been out of work for a long period of time need training and social support to prepare them for employment, not a sudden removal of all benefits which simply exacerbates deep fear and anxiety. Introduction to potential employers is also needed since 85% of all UK jobs are not advertised.


3 Cutting benefits is in fact a perverse way of getting people into work since Landman Economics has show that over £4 in every £5 of benefit cuts are hitting working households.

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15 April 2013

TUC calls on statistics watchdog to investigate minister over benefit claims


The TUC has today (Monday) written to the UK Statistics Authority, calling on it to investigate Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith for 'misusing' official statistics to justify the government's benefits cap.

Mr Duncan Smith hailed figures published on Friday - which showed that the number to be affected by the £26,000 cap on benefits had fallen by 16,000 - as proof that his welfare reforms were driving people to find work.

However, the government analysis Mr Duncan Smith based his claims on explicitly states there is no evidence of people changing their behaviour as result of the cap. It says the main reason behind the fall is because ministers have changed the rules over eligibility.

The TUC says this is not the first time that Mr Duncan Smith has found himself in trouble for misrepresenting statistics.

In January 2012 the UK Statistics Authority rebuked him for his handling of figures on benefits claimed by immigrants. And in 2010 he was criticised by the watchdog's former head, Sir Michael Scholar, for 'serious deficiencies' in his use of statistics during a debate on housing reform.

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady said: 'It was wrong for Iain Duncan Smith to claim that the impending benefits cap has spurred people into finding jobs.

'The government's own analysts say that 16,000 fewer people will be affected because ministers have changed the rules about who is eligible, not because of any change in behaviour.

'The Department for Work and Pensions is a serial offender for misusing statistics. Perhaps ministers should be subject to a three strikes and you're out rule. If you need to make the supporting evidence up, then you must have a pretty weak argument.

'It is essential that the UK Statistics Authority investigates Mr Duncan Smith's use of official figures.'

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The hellish legacy of Thatcher

by Mike Sivier


As I write these words, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher is taking place at St Paul's Cathedral in London.


Unemployment stands at 2.56 million (7.9 per cent of the workforce).


The banks are not lending money.


More small firms are going out of business every day.


The economy is stagnant and the outlook for growth is bleak, according to the International Monetary Fund.


The rich elite prey on the poor - Britain's highest-earners are billions better-off than in 2010, while wages for the lowest-earners are increased by so little that most of them are on benefit and sliding into debt (0.8 per cent rise in the year to February).


The cost of living has risen by around three per cent.


900,000 people have been out of work for more than a year.


The number of unemployed people aged 16-24 is up to 979,000 (21.6 per cent of all those in that age group).


Politicians lie to us, in order to win our support by deceit.


Assessment for disability benefits is on a model devised by an insurance company to avoid paying money to those who need it most.


Health services are being privatised, to make money for corporate shareholders rather than heal the sick.


Government policies have reinstated the 'Poll Tax' principle that everybody must pay taxation, no matter how poor they are.


Government policies mean child poverty will rise by 100,000 this year. It will not achieve the target of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.


Government policies are ensuring that many thousands of people will soon be homeless, while social housing is being sold into the private sector.


And Legal Aid is being cut back, to ensure that the only people with access to justice are those who can pay for it.


This is Thatcher's Britain, nor are we out of it.


She died; we went to hell.

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Benefit appeals up for the third quarter in a row!

Claimants see 42% success rates as sickness appeals set to reach all time record high!....

Over three quarter of millions Employment & Support Allowance appeals lodged to date - more than half the number of fit for work decisions


The numbers of appeals was for some reason always kept on the lower side during the course of the welfare reform and legal aid bills, since the passing of both bills the rate of appeals has continually shot up.


The release of the latest figures from HMCTS Tribunals shows another huge increase in the number of Employment & Support Allowance appeals. There's been some minor tinkering with the figures for previous sets but setting that aside for the present, the more alarming news is that the increase in appeals for this benefit which had already reached 133,700 in the first two quarters of 2012/2013 has now sky rocketed even further when you include the third quarter up to December 2012; the figure has now reached 218,964 and we are only three quarters of the way through the year.


Appeals building up

These figures show that appeals are now well on track to considerably exceed a quarter of a million by the year end in March 2013 - once the figures have been finalised for the remaining quarter. Tribunals are clearly struggling to keep pace as 218,964 appeal receipts exceed the 185,245 disposed of, this means the numbers of cases 'outstanding' has increased for Employment & Support Allowance, placing Tribunals under increasing pressure in the next quarter.


42% claimant success rate maintained for third time this year

The results at appeal show that for the third quarter in a row claimants in Employment & Support Allowance appeals are achieving success rates of 42%. Claimant success rates are similarly running at 41% for appellants in 55,650 Disability Living Allowances appeals heard over the same three quarters. The backlogs are clearly leading to long delays as 1,068 of the older incapacity benefit cases reached a hearing with success rates averaging 41%.

Three quarter of a million appeal receipts - 1.2 million 'fit for work decisions

Her Majesty's Courts & Tribunals Service do not record appeal receipts for 2008/2009 but we've managed to track some earlier down (see previous post as to the source reference from DWP). What's astonishing is that these figures now show that since the start of the Employment & Support Allowance programme back in October 2008 a staggering number of appeal receipts have been received by the Tribunal for just one benefit - 764,764 by December 2012 is unprecedented.


Especially when compared with the total number of fit for work decisions made by the DWP - a total of 1,215,200 to May 2012. It points to a 63% appeal rate against fit for work decisions when you combine all of the different ESA appeal cohorts together - the correct way of over-viewing the DWP massive assessment & reassessment programme. Appeals are lodged originally with the DWP so their figures for May 2012 will have considerable relevance to the figures released by the Tribunals up to December 2012. It can take many months for an appeal to be hears and what these figures are starting to show is the Tribunals are considerably ahead of the DWP in publishing results whereas the DWP is taking far longer to update their records after the appeals have been heard.


DWP is 14 months behind in logging results

As a percentage of the overall number of assessments (2,685,900) carried out between October 2008 and May 2012, these figures show around 28% claimants had lodged an ESA appeal with HMCTS between October 2008 and December 2012. The 'time lag' which the DWP currently puts at 14 months in the only data set they have made available to date showing they have only got updated records of tribunal results up to November 2011 recorded on their separate records which relate to new ESA claims only. These records showing that as of November 2011 only 108,400 overturned appeal cases (in the claimants favour) has been readjusted after appeal - they concede to having no information on no less than 452,600 appeal outcomes way back in November 2011.


It all points to an absolute tsunami of appeal building up at the DWP which look set to drown the Tribunals with Employment & Support Allowance cases for sometime yet, most of the outstanding cases will not be subject to the new mandatory revision before appeal system because appeals will have been lodged with the DWP well before the new rules take effect.

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