May 292013

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot, has responded to a complaint from Sheila Gilmore MP regarding an article published in the Daily Telegraph which implied that 900,000 people who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit had dropped their claims rather than undergo a face-to-face assessment for the replacement benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The article quoted Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, in his capacity as Conservative Party Chairman, as saying “This is a new figure, nearly a million people have come off incapacity benefit…before going for the test. They take themselves off.”

After investigation, Mr Dilnot concluded that these statements were misleading, although he formulates his response more diplomatically, as the 900,000 persons quoted did not appear to be claiming Incapacity Benefits, but represented the cumulative total of 878,300 new ESA claims which were closed before undergoing assessessment in the period from October 2008 to May 2012. Which means these people closed their claims before receiving benefits, and this happened over a period of four years. And according to research undertaken by DWP, an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation.

Regarding claimants on Incapacity Benefits, a total of 603,600 recipients were referred for reassessment as part of the migration across to ESA between March 2011 and May 2012. Of these, 19,700 claims were closed prior to a work capability assessment in the period to May 2012.

Again, the right wing press and the Conservative Party have been caught red handed manipulating the figures. This is an exercise that DWP and IDS have also mastered over the past 3 years, by repeatedly using the number of new ESA claims to boost the number of people found fit for work, and distorting the real picture. The real picture for those who can remember the media headlines fed by DWP ” 70% of Britons on ‘incapacity benefits’ found to be fit to work”, is that with a much more stringent test, over 70% of people previously on incapacity benefits are still entitled to them.

Link to PDF copy of  letter HERE