See video of the excellent John Kelly speaking on BBC news on #ILF August 7th
See video of the excellent John Kelly speaking on BBC news on #ILF August 7th
As if we hadn’t had enough benefit bashing via Channel 4 with their highly dubious misrepresentation of everyone on benefits as accurately represented by the carefully selected participants of Benefit Street, it seems the BBC has joined the fray in their highly misleading (and factually wrong) headlines informing us: ‘Million sickness benefit applicants ‘fit for work’.’
I completely agree with Mike Sivier of Vox Political who accuses the “BBC of being a mouthpiece for the Tory party”, he’s wisely encouraging people to write in and complain. It’s good advice to those who are incensed by the right wing media’s continual portrayal of everyone on benefits as low life scum.
So you know what you have to do; complain in your droves!
What the BBC won’t tell you is that over 5 million of you have been subjected to the humiliating & Support Allowance regime in terms of original claims, reassessments and transfers from existing benefits. Whilst the overall claimant count hovers around 2.5 million, lightning has a nasty habit of striking more than once and thousands of you will have been repeatedly struck by the absolute chaos which surrounds the DWP’s handling of this particular benefit. So hopefully there should be no shortage of complaints to the BBC.
But before doing so, I would encourage you to get ‘clued up’ on the facts which the BBC (and no doubt the papers which will follow) make no attempt to explain, as with so many of these reports they only give you half the story (well in this case considerably less) ……
For some extraordinary reason the DWP and media have an almost obsession with ‘new claims’ for the dreaded Employment & Support Allowance. On nearly every statistical release the accent is principally on new claims, it’s not hard to understand why; they invariably provide the public with more sensationalist headlines over ‘millions being found fit for work or ‘closing their claims without an assessment’ (by the awful Atos ‘Healthcare’ who conduct the controversial examinations under £100 million contracts with the DWP).
Here’s what they don’t tell you….
Over 2.3 million cases are being left out of the BBC’s figures
Why leave out 88% claimant success rates?
Had the BBC fully reported the facts, they would have had to go in to the nasty truth which gets in the way of a good story. They could have told you all how in the six months between October 2012 and May 2013 an average of 83% of 1,078,200 incapacity claimants were passing their assessments and 88% of those 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying for the allowance.
But the Beeb buried the good news.
Instead they chose to home in only new claimants who score a lower ‘pass’ rate at what the DWP incorrectly cite as an ‘initial’ assessment’. The BBC cites an average of 32% of ‘new applicants’ being found ‘fit for work’ between 2008 and 2013. I’m not sure where the BBC get the figure from as it’s more correctly an average of 46% for new claimants being found ‘fit for work’ with 54% qualifying for the allowance following assessment. The figure rises to 60% when we look at the last six months to May 2013, I’ll come back to my reservations over these figures later on in this thread.
The BBC headlines are meaningless unless considered with the context of all the available facts. It just looks like more of the same propaganda aimed at making us think people are coming off benefits and back in the work market.
Why doesn’t the BBC challenge the bigger picture?
The BBC article tells us that very close to 2 million people have come off the sick either as a result of being found ‘fit for work’ or ‘closing their claims before being assessed’. The clear intention of the BBC is to infer 2 million people should not have been claiming the sick and should instead be in the labour market, meaning either looking for work or in work.
The DWP tables for October 2008 to May 2013 tells us that the figure for ALL claimants found fit for work is in fact
2,751,800 allegedly ready for labour market
Why didn’t the BBC give us the figure for ALL claimants?
I’d suggest; because they knew it would open up a can of worms for a government which they continually support with misleading articles when it comes to reporting on those ‘on the sick’.
Given that the above figures relate to the entire time the ESA assessment programme has been running (since 2008) it is is necessary to align the ESA figures with the time the Coalition has been in power. This enables us to analyse how many (of ALL ESA claimants) have been found either ‘fit for work’ or who have ‘closed their claims before assessment’ since May 2010 to May 2013. The latest DWP figures available is (it will be even higher now):
1,856,100 allegedly ready for labour market
This infers that the Coalition has found 1.85 million claimants ready and able to enter the labour market. Claimants in this position would generally claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or attempt to find work, (some will however neither claim or work). When it comes to work bear in mind that the Coalition claim to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’, it’s not enough to give everyone seemingly ‘coming off the sick’ a position in employment – it’s 856,100 short.
But remember, it’s NOT just the sick who are looking for work, we also need to consider other working age groups as others will potentially have to position themselves towards the labour market after coming off working age benefits, we also need to consider how many of our 1.85 million may perhaps claim another working age benefit. The way we do is to check the DWP cumulative figures for ALL working age benefits and make a comparison between May 2010 and May 2013.
This is replicated copy and paste of a DWP table:
Now let’s look at the difference within the same working age benefits by comparing 2010 against 2013….
These revealing figures show how the claimant count has risen or fallen in terms of actual claimant numbers recorded by the DWP unlike the ONS figures who collate the data using a ‘labour market survey’.
That’s how the ONS can provide more up to date figures than the DWP, the DWP work at a much slower pace and can only count claimants up to May 2013. None the less the DWP claimant count is the one which most accurately informs us how many claimants are within the DWP system.
What we can see from these figures is this:
The numbers on JSA has actually increased by 17,000
The numbers on incapacity / ESA has fallen by 156,630
There are 179,420 fewer lone parents
93,410 more people are carers
Other income based claims are down by 44,400
The DWP aren’t too clear over their definition of ‘disabled’ within the claimant count
And finally, Bereavement claims are down by 6,040
The total reduction in ALL the main working age claims is 206,340 under the Coalition
Remember these are the actual claimant count figures derived from the DWP and therefore hard for anyone to refute, they are designated a reliable National statistic and are not based on surveys but on an actual measure of those claiming benefits.
So what conclusions can we draw
From the facts since May 2010?
Well, despite what the BBC tell you about nearly 2 million being identified as ready to hit the labour markets, the reality is they have under-quoted the overall figure, it’s actually 1,856,100 found either ‘fit for work’ or having ‘closed their claims before assessment’. There’s no way 1.8 million claimants have somehow magically disappeared from the incapacity claim count (including ESA) because the DWP’s own figures confirm the overall numbers have only reduced by 156,630 since May 2010; it’s all there in black and white.
The BBC have failed to look at whether the numbers being found fit for work or closing their claims has materially made any difference to the claimant count; in short there is very little impact upon the overall numbers of claimants.
The Government’s claims to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’ are pretty meaningless too.
A Daily Telegraph article uncovered a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in Jan 2010 revealed that 1.31 million people were made redundant during the pre-2010 recession. The DWP were processing an astonishing 6.2 million fresh claims for jobseeker’s allowance between April 2008 and November 2009. It highlights how the claimant count is far from a static number, each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits. The Telegraph article reveals that on Jobseeker’s Allowance alone in December 2009 ” over 350,000 – left unemployment benefit in a single month.”
Similarly, many thousands of claimants leave Employment & Support Allowance each month, the quarterly figures for May 2013 amount to 153,360 coming off benefit, some 175,810 came off other incapacity benefits in the same quarter, the number of claimants coming off Income Support amounted to 150,130 Add the whole lot together and you can see how ‘1 million extra jobs’ isn’t going to go far. What we really need to know is how long these jobs last and exactly which groups of people are filling them.
What the BBC fails to address in their meaningless drivel over 1 million being found ‘fit for work’ and a further 1 million closing their claim before assessment is what happens to these claimants afterwards.
Let’s also not forget the massive numbers of job losses in the public sector under the coalition, the GMB Union claim that over 631,000 job losses have been dished out under the Coalition.
We also have, according to Thomson Reuters a 1.1 million increase in the population aged 16 and over , what few people realise is that when the number of people in the labour market increases, exactly the same number of unemployed will result in a reduction in the unemployment level simply because it’s a smaller percentage of a bigger number. There are all kinds of factors which factor in to an increase in the working age population, not least that fewer people can afford to retire as well as changes in the age at which people can retire.
So there you have it, the BBC headlines are very much a ‘non story’ without all the peripheral facts which they so conveniently omit to mention.
In my next post, I’ll explain what closing a claim without an assessment really means, I’ll then go on and explain why the DWP’s latest work assessment figures continued to be riddled with flaws.
with great thanks to the excellent Nick for agreeing DPAC can repost-for more see: http://legalaidandme.proboards.com/thread/7258/serious-flaws-governments-statistics?page=11&scrollTo=21055
Follow Nick on Twitter: @Mylegalforum
Protestor: Please understand why we’re doing this
Security officer offscreen: I do. I understand
Protestor: We’re licence payers and they need to do more proper reporting. They need to stop blocking our voices. They’ve got to get our message out. They blocked the NHS protests. Our NHS. Everybody out here uses it and they stopped people from getting the
story out. The people out there need to know what is happening in this country and people are dying.
Get some of your staff out here and see what’s going on, because they could be next.
Protestor 2: The government are churning out proven lies and they’re being caught out over and over again telling lies, Iain Duncan Smith is supposed to be talking to a parliamentary committee for grossly misusing statistics and misrepresenting benefit claimants in this country.
Disabled activists from grassroots campaigns Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and Mental Health Resistance Network have occupied the BBC building in London to protest against the role the media are playing in worsening attitudes towards disabled people and a complete failure to give space to the realities of what this government are doing to disabled people.
Ironically just last week the BBC reported on a research report by Scope which highlighted how things have got worse for disabled people since the Paralympics, but the BBC themselves have contributed to this situation by a lack of balanced or accurate reporting. In fact their coverage of the research angered disabled people by spectacularly failing to draw any links between the worsening conditions disabled people are facing and government policy.
Despite the fact that Iain Duncan Smith has been pulled up before the Work and Pensions Select Committee for misrepresentation and manipulation of figures and statistics, the BBC continues to report information released by the DWP as fact.
This resulted in a situation over Easter weekend where disabled people, about to face an austerity armageddon with benefits and income essential for their survival brutally slashed away, also had to contend with national media coverage that encouraged a view of us as benefit scroungers and cheats. It has since been proven that information released by the DWP ahead of the changes in April such as the figures for all of those who had supposedly stopped ineligible claims for incapacity benefit due to the tightening up of the benefit system, were misrepresentations with no basis in evidence. Just the smallest amount of research would have revealed to the BBC that they were about to report lies as objective fact. In addition to the misrepresented figures and statistics which the BBC promoted, further weight was given to the government’s propaganda by the succession of government ministers who were then given air time to continue to peddle their falsheoods. Where people were invited on to present an alternative view, they were non-disabled people from national charities. Firstly these people do not represent us, and secondly there are many more informed disabled campaigners who could have exposed the lies and misrepresentations.
Time and again the government and front bench Ministers have lied to justify policies which are causing the deaths of disabled people. Only last week the Disability News Service has had to raise formal complaints against the DWP press office for deliberately presenting false information about the level of spending on disability in the UK. Meanwhile the situation in the UK has gained international notoriety. The UN are currently in the UK to investigate and report on what the UK is doing through its housing policies. Solidarity protests outside the British Embassy have been organised by supporters in Canada.
Yet time and again the BBC have not only failed to report on what is happening but to contribute to public ignorance of what is going and to inflame hostility with questions such as “Why can’t disabled people take their fair share?” It is well evidenced that disabled people are bearing the brunt of austerity measures with those with the highest level of support need being hit nineteen times harder than the average citizen. To even put the question why can’t we take our fair share is damaging and in contempt of disabled people’s basic rights to be treated with respect and free from hostility.
For more information please contact Rosa Wilkinson on 07505144371.
Notes for editors:
1) Disabled People Against Cuts was set up in October 2010 to oppose the government attacks on disabled people. Our week of action last year highlighted the hypocrisy of Atos’ sponsorship of the Paralympic Games and culminated in a protest of 700 people outside Atos headquarters and the occupation of the DWP building by disabled activists and a guide dog for 2 1/2 hours. We are now in the middle of our week of action for 2013: Reclaiming Our Futures, which is focused on the wide range of attacks that are pushing back disabled people’s rights be decades.
2) DPAC report on DWP abuse of statistics: http://www.scribd.com/doc/149776210/DPAC-Report-on-DWP-Abuse-of-Statistics-Final-22-June-2013
4) Campaign for a Fair Society: how the cuts are targeting disabled people revealed the extent to which austerity is disproportionately impacting on disabled people
The following is a letter of complaint to BBC led by Mad Pride and supported by the other signatories
We are writing to complain about a lack of balance in the BBC’s coverage and programming in relation to the government’s proposals for welfare reforms and benefits, and their implications.
Disabled people, unwaged carers, trade unions, low-paid workers and unemployed people have raised serious concerns about ‘mandatory work’ programmes that force people on benefits to work without pay. These pose a direct threat to the basic minimum wage, restrictions on working hours and rules on unfair dismissal, and therefore to the pay and conditions of people in paid work. These implications have not even been mentioned, let alone been properly aired.
Instead we have a torrent of programmes aimed at stigmatising and demonising benefit claimants by highlighting benefit fraud, especially for incapacity benefit (“Britain on the Fiddle”, Panorama 3 November) and the ‘feckless’ who supposedly don’t want to work. An impact of this wholly disproportionate misrepresentation of claimants as frauds and scroungers by some sections of the media has been cited as a direct cause of a reported increase in assaults and other abuse on disabled people, and to appearances parallel The Department of Work and Pensions own propensity for distortion, itself criticised for the way it has released misleading figures and statistics that have been used to feed this biased propaganda.
Reality here is for the best part skewed by the BBC. Rates of fraud for disability benefits are the lowest – 0.3% to 1.9% — and are insignificant compared to the low amounts people are expected to live on, and the billions in underclaimed benefits. People who can work should be entitled to a reasonable living wage and decent and safe working conditions.
Many disabled people are not able to work. Many fear they will be wrongly ruled ‘fit for work’ by the revised ‘work capability assessment’ that has been much criticised. And for the many made unemployed through no fault of their own by the effects of the economic downturn – or passed over to unemployment benefit via assessment! – they now face being forced into ‘mandatory’ work with no pay.
Our very real and legitimate concerns are not being aired. We have not been given an opportunity to make ourselves heard and understood.
Is it right that the BBC is part of this propaganda? Should a publicly-funded body engage in what is tantamount to the promotion of hate crime?
The BBC’s charter says it must show proper balance in its reporting and programming and should not be politically biased. It seems to us that there has been no proper balance and that the programmes aired show a political bias to promote and defend the government’s welfare reform, while hiding the views of those who will be directly affected by them.
We insist on our right to have our concerns properly heard and we demand the right to a full and effective ‘right to reply’ to help to counter the weight of the prejudicial propaganda put out by the BBC.
Disabled benefit claimants, unwaged carers and unemployed people are also licence payers, and we have as much right as people who are in paid employment to have a say in the content and conduct of the BBC.
We look forward to a response to start a process by which BBC Directors and programme makers can redress this current bias as soon as possible. This is a matter of urgent concern for thousands of people who have been barely managing to survive and are now faced with destitution or worse.
Claire Glasman- WinVisible
Ellen Cifford – Disabled People Against the Cuts
Joanna Long – Boycott Workfare
Dave Skull -Mad Pride
Johnny Void -Benefit Claimants Fight Back
Andy Greene – Islington Disabled People Against the Cuts
Paul Smith – Atos Vic tims Group
Richard Rieser- Co-ordinator UK Disability History Month
Warren Clarke – Boycott Workfare
The response received from the BBC goes as follows –
We have received a wide range of feedback about this programme and feel it is worth highlighting that considerable correspondence to us has been generated by online lobby activity. Bearing in mind the pressure on resources, the response below strives to address the majority of concerns raised but we apologise in advance if not all of the specific points you have mentioned have been answered in the manner you prefer. Please be assured we have raised your concerns with the programme and have done our best to issue a substantive response.
Panorama’s ‘Britain on the Fiddle’ looked at a number of issues surrounding public sector fraud, including benefit fraud, the nature and extent of the unlawful subletting of council properties, the issue of identity fraud and the misuse of blue badges. The programme also followed the work of some local authority fraud investigators and by doing so revealed how time consuming and costly inquiries into suspected fraud can be.
The programme made it clear that fraud effectively takes money from all of us, especially those in genuine need. On benefit fraud, including incapacity benefit specifically, the programme stressed that most people on benefits really need them and don’t cheat the system.
Far from concentrating on the economically deprived, the programme featured, for example, the case of a man claiming benefits to pay for a council flat whilst owning and running a pub business many miles away – travelling between both destinations in a luxury car.
Furthermore, the film featured fraud investigators tackling the misuse of blue badges. Many people have since written to Panorama to express their gratitude to the programme for highlighting the problem which causes them distress and much inconvenience.
We don’t agree that the cases featured in our film were extreme or were not broadly indicative of instances of benefit fraud. That is not the experience of the local authority fraud investigators who were kind enough to allow us to film their work. Dr Mark Button, from the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies said in the programme:
“I think a lot of organisations are not realistic about the levels of fraud that they face because in any organisation there are large levels of fraud that are undetected. So if they rely on detected levels of fraud they are not getting the picture of the levels of fraud within their organisation.”
Emphasising this, it is important to note that just recently the Audit Commission released its most up to date figures for detected fraud against local government which explains that these figures are only the tip of a very large iceberg.
We believe the programme explored a subject which is clearly in the public interest and did so in a fair and impartial manner.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Incapacity Benefit was introduced in 1995 to replace Invalidity Benefit – both come under the earnings replacement benefit heading. It is important to understand that earnings replacement benefits have a chequered history. Prior to 1971, those unable to work due to sickness or disability were generally not distinguished from other non-workers, and simply received means-tested assistance, if they were poor enough.
Tania Burchardt (1999) wrote:
The 1970s and 1980s were in general periods of expansion and improvement in the coverage of earnings-replacement benefits. However the tide did begin to turn. First in 1980 all long-term benefits, including IVB, were linked to prices rather than being up-rated with earnings as they had been previously. Then through the 1980s short-term sickness benefits became flat-rate (losing their earnings-related element) and responsibility for them was gradually passed to employers. Finally, and decisively, Incapacity Benefit (IB) replaced IVB in 1995: taxable, unlike its predecessor, and with tougher eligibility criteria. For IVB, assessments of incapacity for work could take into account the claimant’s age and qualifications, but for long-term IB the test (at least in theory) is whether there is any work the claimant could perform, regardless of the likelihood of him or her getting such a job or its suitability.
A number of issues arise from this period which still haunt us today and makes it extremely difficult to have a meaningful and rational discussion around the ‘benefits agenda’. Firstly, it is a widely held belief that Tory Government’s encouraged IVB claims rather than unemployment benefit in key regional areas in order to mask the true unemployment figures. Secondly, the State has always bound together ‘sickness and disability’ and as a result misrepresented and abused the lifestyles of people with chronic illness and/or impairment. Finally, it should be noted that three years after IB was introducted it became part of New Labour’s first shake up of the Welfare System under Alistair Darling. Labour were concerned by the fact that the ‘disability benefits’ element of the social security bill had between 1974 and 1998 risen from 16% to 27%.
This is the background to the rentless campaign that has unfolded since the end of the 1990s against people claiming ‘disability benefits’. DPAC has highlighted how both Labour and the Coalition have employed the rabid Tory press to witchhunt claimants. It is not our argument that there is no need for reform of the benefit system, nor would we foolishly refuse to acknowledge that some claimants might not need the benefits they are claiming; however, we assert that these issues should not detract us from questioning the real agenda behind the so called ‘reforms’ and the discriminatory and disablist manner in which the three major political parties and the mass media are targeting those on ‘disability benefits’.
The latest attack came on the 21st April 2011 when both the Daily Mail and the BBC using data collected by the DWP in August 2010 supported a speech made by David Cameron. In his speech Cameron said:
People on benefits due to drink and drug problems will be expected to work if they can
He promised “tough action” after government figures showed 80,000 people claimed incapacity benefits due to drink, drug or weight-related issues.
The Daily Mail carried an article by Daniel Martin which re-articulated a previous one written back in the Autumn – the theme of both being that drug addicts, drunks and people with minor ailments such as headaches were abusing IB. The BBC went one step further and produced a chart:
And this shows what exactly? That the world of work makes people ill, perhaps? Having a category such as “depression” or “obesity” masks the nature and degree of the condition, it fails to acknowledge the varied causes of the conditions held within the categories. Alcoholism is for example an extremely complex condition – however Cameron and the mass media are happy to make reckless generalised comments about people with a variety of medical conditions.
As a result of their actions the public are encouraged to pin “common sense stereotyped” labels on benefit claimants. The BBC’s chart, for example, are we clear as to what is covered by “drug abuse”? Are there 37,480 “junkies” on benefits or could it just be that this figure includes people who are ‘drug dependent’ due to the nature or treatment of their condition”? This approach tars everyone with specific impairments with the same brush – the social context of impairments are ignored in favour of crude discriminatory stereotyped descriptions. People are drug dependent for many reasons; people can have weight issues for many reasons too – but the Tories don’t want this to be considered.
Another question absent from Cameron’s lips and the media stories is: ‘Are these claims within the Social Security rules of entitlement?’ Why is the focus always on the claimants? When was the last time you read in the Daily Mail or heard via the BBC that senior officials at the DWP have been hauled over the coals?
Let’s cut the crap – the 21st April marked the latest attempt to instil in the minds of the public that there are two groups of claimants – “deserving” and “undeserving”. This Government has made “impairment” a political issue by asserting through a moral discourse there are acceptable and unacceptable impairments. How dare Cameron pretend to have morals when he has allowed the banking sector get away with immoral acts time and time again? How dare Cameron pretend to have morals when he fiddled his own expenses? We must stand up and oppose the immoral way in which people with impairments are being scapegoated as an excuse for dismantling the Welfare State.