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workprogramme1

Is it possible that the news media are finally learning to examine Coalition press releases critically, rejecting those that don’t stand up to scrutiny?

There’s a crumb of hope in the fact that the latest disinformation about disabled people has received a very poor pick-up in the press. This is probably because it is easily-disproved nonsense.

The release claims “More than 500 disabled people a week supported into work or training”, which is a grandiose claim when one remembers the trouble suffered by the DWP in doing just that, only a few months ago.

According to the text, the DWP reckons more than 78,000 “opportunities for disabled people” have been created since 2011, where they have either found a job or “taken a significant step towards the workplace”.

But the logic falls down when you get to the quotation from Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easyjet. He said: “Already over 100,000 disabled entrepreneurs employ an equivalent number of people in their business start-ups.”

Firstly, in the light of other quoted statistics that say 21,000 (of the 78,000 initially mentioned) have been on work experience placement, while more than 10,000 more started in sector-based work academies, one must wonder where 53,000 of the people mentioned by Sir Stelios came from.

Secondly, did you notice that he let the cat out of the bag (so to speak)? “Business start-ups”, is it?

Didn’t we all discover, via a BBC 5 Live investigation back in February last year, that job seekers on the work programme were being encouraged to declare that they were self-employed – when they aren’t – in order to get more money in tax credits than they would on Jobseekers’ Allowance?

This is just the same scam, applied to people on disability benefits like the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance. Once their year on ESA runs out, they have a choice of going on Jobseekers’ Allowance (which is problematic as they cannot say they are fit for work), going without benefits altogether, or taking the self-employed cheat.

Some of them might be working but it seems likely that the vast majority aren’t.

Meanwhile, the government gets to fiddle the unemployment statistics to make it seem that the Work Programme is succeeding and more people have jobs.

It is right that the news media should not promote this blatant false accounting. Instead (as Elizabeth Caldow states in the comment column below) they should be exposing it for the outright fabrication that it is.

There should be a law against it.

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