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The Fail has struck again with a comically inaccurate piece about benefit appeal tribunals.

“Benefits claimants cheats (sic) are able to keep money they are not entitled to because government officials fail to turn up to legal hearings,” thundered the piece by MailOnline political editor Matt Chorley, who should know better – both in terms of grammar and logic.

“The Department for Work and Pensions sent lawyers to just four per cent of tribunals held last year to rule on decisions to cut benefits.

“It means that in many cases people are able to successfully argue in favour of keeping their money, because the government has failed to turn up to challenge it.”

No – that’s not what it means.

If the DWP has made a decision not to send lawyers to defend the cancellation of a claimant’s benefit, it means they expect the facts to speak for themselves – or they do not believe they have a high enough chance of success to justify the expense. Logically this would mean they believe the claimant is correct and deserves the money.

So the real story is that tribunals are finding 49.613 per cent of benefit claimants who appeal to them have been wrongly stripped of benefits by poor DWP decisions (explanation below).

The story goes on to say that “official figures also show that the DWP is more likely to win cases if it manages to send someone to the tribunal”. This does not support the Fail‘s claim that cheats are winning cases; it corroborates the fact that the DWP sends lawyers when it believes it can win a case but legal representation is necessary.

The facts are buried deeper in the story, where we find (in figures borrowed from the Daily Telegraph) that between April and December 2013, only 4.3 per cent of cases had an official from the DWP – and claimants won their case in 41 per cent of those. That’s 1.763 per cent of the total.

When there was no presenting officer from the DWP, that figure rose to 50 per cent – half of the remaining 95.7 per cent of tribunals. Half of 95.7 per cent is 47.85 per cent. Add that to the 1.763 per cent and you have the percentage of claimant wins.

It still means the DWP is winning more than half of its cases!

The scandal is that it is causing unnecessary hardship to around 124,400 people, if the Fail is right in saying there were 250,000 benefit tribunals last year.

And Fail readers know it, if the story’s Comment column is any indicator. Keith Hudson writes: “They only turn up if they think they will win or that the Tribunal will rule in their favour anyway. The true waste of money is in the number of appeals that the DWP force through to this stage knowing full well they’ve broken the rules.”

This is also the view of ‘Pixie’, who writes: “WOW DM you need to revise that first sentence! There are plenty of people who appeal who are NOT cheats!”

And so on, down the line. This is the legendary right-wing Daily Mail comment column, yet even here people are turning against the pro-Tory attitude pushed by the mainstream press.

With Iain Duncan Smith appearing on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, this is another opportunity to point out the huge amount of damage being caused by his fatally – and the term is used literally – flawed policies.

That’s if the Beeb has the bottle to allow such a question.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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