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Distortion With Prejudice: Will we ever get FACTS from the Department for Work and Pensions - or just more spin and spiel?

Distortion With Prejudice: Will we ever get FACTS from the Department for Work and Pensions – or just more spin and spiel?

Problems in interpreting the DWP’s August 27 release of mortality statistics for claimants of incapacity benefit may be due to the government department’s failure to record its information in any reasonable manner, according to the Information Commission.

A solicitor for the Information Commissioner’s Office said this could be the case in response to concerns raised by Yr Obdt Srvt about the fudged statistics the DWP offered in response to my Freedom of Information request, sent on May 28 last year.

The comment raises serious concerns about the usefulness of the Freedom of Information Act, as it implies that any public authorities could discharge its duties by recording nonsense and publishing it as fact.

In her email, the solicitor (who will go unnamed to prevent embarrassment) wrote: “The [FOI] Act is only concerned with recorded information and not whether the information which is recorded is accurate, logical or consistent with other information.

“Where any recorded information appears to be inaccurate, illogical or inconsistent with other published information, it may be desirable for a public authority to provide an explanatory not to accompany the disclosure but neither the Act nor the material decision notice compel the DWP to provide such accompanying explanation.”

In other words, anything that has been published by the Department for Work and Pensions – regarding this or any other statistical information – may be untrue.

A prime example of this is in the DWP’s claims regarding the total number of deaths in its document Mortality Statistics: Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance’, in which death figures per year for 2009-2013 are provided for the total incapacity benefits population but also separately for the ESA and IB/SDA populations. If the separate totals are added together, than the sum is greater – every year – than the number claimed for the population as a whole.

This writer does not accept that any benefit claimant can die twice.

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