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
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