DPAC welcomes the letter sent by Anne Begg, Chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee to the Minister for Employment Chris Grayling expressing serious concerns at the most recent misrepresentation of DWP statistics on benefit claimants in sections of the media on the same day that the Select Committee published a report which criticising aspects of the government’s involvement in reporting about the incapacity benefit reassessment process.
The report found that: “more care is needed in the way the Government engages with the media and in particular the way in which it releases and provides its commentary on official statistics on the IB reassessment”. The letter comments that “By what I assume was a coincidence, the Department chose to release statistics on new Employment and Support Allowance claims [on the same day as the report]. The coverage of the statistics in some newspapers, notably the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, was a particularly egregious example of the way they can be misused.”
The letter goes on to say “I am sure that you are therefore as shocked as I am by this most recent misrepresentation of DWP statistics on benefit claimants” and ends “I trust that you will be contacting newspaper editors again to urge them to ensure that the reports they carry about ESA claims are factually correct and that they avoid pejorative terms such as “shirkers” and “scroungers” which are irresponsible and inaccurate.”
Of course the release of the statistics on the same day as the publication of the report can have been no coincidence and it displays the arrogance of the government and their determination to pursue a policy direction that targets and attacks disabled people. However we commend the way the Select Committee have taken a stand in this.