Tag Archives: claimant count

Vox Political vindicated on unemployment figures

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How pleasant to see Vox Political‘s concerns about the massaging of UK unemployment figures being taken up by the kind of people the mass media actually respect.

A report on the BBC News website states that Conservative Party claims that unemployment has dropped by around 60 per cent in some areas is based on “wrong data” – in other words, the Tories are lying.

This blog has been saying that for a very long time!

The story says Tories have been using Jobseekers Allowance figures – the so-called Claimant Count – to justify their claims, but the independent Office for National Statistics showed only a 20 per cent drop in those seats. The ONS said online: “the number of unemployed people in the UK is substantially higher than the claimant count”.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (and well-known to readers of this blog), said: “Many people who are unemployed don’t claim JSA… JSA figures at the local level are accurate, but it is not correct to confuse JSA rates and unemployment.”

In the BBC story, a Tory spokesman said the concern over the data was “nonsense”. He said: “This unemployment measure is provided by the independent House of Commons Library – and for constituencies they are the most up to date and most reliable numbers to use.”

Yes, the House of Commons Library does provide figures – with a caveat that they do not include the number of unemployed people claiming Universal Credit, and there is no date set for when those figures will be included in the Claimant Count (as reported by David Hencke in November last year). The current way of calculating these figures is misleading from the start.

In an article from the same month, This Writer made some other pertinent points:

“If employment has increased – and there’s no reason to say it hasn’t – we can also conclude that the reason employers are more willing to take people on is that they can pay peanuts for them and rely on the government to top them up with in-work benefits. It seems likely that the work was always there but employers weren’t going to take anybody on if it meant increasing the wages bill and reducing the amount of profit available to them. Now that zero-hours contracts are available, along with part-time schemes that deny people pensions and holiday pay, it’s a different matter.

“The number of people who were self-employed increased by a staggering 186,000, to reach 3.25 million, while people working as self-employed part-time increased by 93,000 to reach 1.27 million. That’s 4.52 million – almost one-sixth of the total number of people in work. If you think that’s great, you haven’t been paying attention. Remember this article, warning that the increase was due to older people staying in work? And what about the catastrophic collapse in self-employed earnings we discovered at the same time?

“How many of these are people who have been persuaded to claim tax credits as self-employed people, rather than jump through the increasingly-difficult hoops set out for them if they claimed Jobseekers’ Allowance – and do they know they’ll have to pay all the money back when their deception is discovered?

“The number of people in part-time employment has also increased, by 28,000 to reach 6.82 million. Are we to take it that this means under-employment has increased again?

“Public sector employment has fallen again. If you want to know why the government keeps messing you around, there’s your answer. There aren’t enough people to do the job. This month’s statistics show 11,000 fewer public sector employees than in March, and 282,000 fewer than this time last year.

“Unemployment is said to have dropped – but remember, this is not counting people who have been sanctioned. A recent study by Professor David Stuckler of Oxford University suggests as many as half a million people could have been sanctioned off-benefit in order to massage the figures, meaning that the total listed – 931,700 – is probably wrong. Remember also that Universal Credit claimants aren’t counted, nor are those on government work schemes – another 123,000 people.

“This means the actual unemployment rate is likely to be double the number provided by the official statistics.

“And what about people on ESA/DLA/PIP?”

In January this year, This Writer added: “New research by Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has shown that only around one-fifth (20 per cent) of people who have been sanctioned off of Jobseekers’ Allowance have actually found work, leaving 1.6 million in limbo; they’re off the benefits system but researchers can only surmise that they are relying on food banks.”

And in February, Vox Political had this point to make: “We also know that many thousands have died – through suicide or complications of their physical conditions (if claiming incapacity benefits) after receiving decisions that were not only wrong, but may have been fraudulent.”

Whichever way you slice it, the Tories aren’t being straight with you.

You can trust Vox Political to give you the facts, though.

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Cameron’s ‘mission’ is morally bankrupt

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When David Cameron stands up in all his hypocrisy and tells you that tearing apart the basic safety net that guaranteed people would not be left in hunger or destitution is part of his “moral mission”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the country has taken a turn for the worse.

When he defends an administration that has become so punitive that applicants who don’t get it right have to wait without food for months at a time, by claiming he is doing “what is right”, even die-hard Tories should agree that the man who claims he is Prime Minister has diverged from reality.

That is precisely what he has done, and you can bet that the Tory diehards will quietly go along with it because they think it is far better for other people to lose their lives than it is for their government to lose face.

Cameron has been responding after the Catholic Bishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, delivered a vehement attack on the social security “reforms” being forced on the country’s most vulnerable people by Iain Duncan Smith.

In the Daily Telegraph, Cameron smarmed: “Our long-term economic plan for Britain is not just about doing what we can afford, it is also about doing what is right… Nowhere is that more true than in welfare. For me the moral case for welfare reform is every bit as important as making the numbers add up.

“We are in the middle of a long and difficult journey turning our country around,” Cameron said. “That means difficult decisions to get our deficit down, making sure that the debts of this generation are not our children’s to inherit.

“But our welfare reforms go beyond that alone – they are about giving new purpose, new opportunity, new hope – and yes, new responsibility to people who had previously been written off with no chance.

“Seeing these reforms through is at the heart of our long-term economic plan – and it is at the heart too of our social and moral mission in politics today.”

Drivel. Any evidence-based analysis will find the exact opposite. Where are the opportunities in Workfare schemes that pay only benefits, meaning travel expenses alone put claimants out of pocket, and then send jobseekers back to the dole queue so rich companies can profit further by taking on more claimants on the same terms?

How can anyone derive hope from taking responsibility for their job search, when DWP staff at Jobcentre Plus are ordered to ignore their own responsibilities in favour of harsh sanctions for invented infringements of the Jobseeker’s Agreement?

And how is encouraging people to say they are self-employed, even though they have little chance of earning enough to support them and none of enjoying a holiday or a pension, different from writing them off with no chance?

Look at the new employment figures from the Office for National Statistics – the Coalition government has been making a song and dance about them ever since they came out. On the face of it, they seem reliable: In December 2013, 30.15 million people were in work of some kind, up by 396,000 from the same time the previous year; there were 2.34 million unemployed, down 161,000 from December 2012; and the Claimant Count (those on Jobseekers’ Allowance) was 1.22 million in January, down 327,000 from a year earlier.

However, the number of people marked as self-employed has rocketed to a record level, totalling one in seven of the workforce. That’s 4,370,000 – up 150,000 on the previous year. This is extremely suspicious, as the increase in the previous year totalled 25,000 – just one-sixth of this week’s figure.

Some of these people might be genuinely self-employed and making their new business work – but all of them? In an economy where productivity hasn’t increased since the Coalition took office? You’d have to be stupid to believe that.

Assuming the amount of real self-employment has increased in line with economic growth (at 1.9 per cent), that’s an extra 25,475 in 2013, leaving 124,525 in limbo. Are these really self-employed? Or were they told by Jobcentre advisors to say so and claim working tax credits (as we’ve seen in the past), leading to a huge debt when HMRC tells them they have been claiming fraudulently and have been overpaid?

How many of the unemployed have been wiped off the books due to sanctions? We don’t know, because we don’t have figures up to December 2013. We do know that 897,690 sanctions were enforced in the year to September 2013. We don’t know how many were for one month, how many for three months or how many for three years, but we do know that the rate was six per cent of jobseekers per month in the three months to the end of September 2013. Assuming that rate stayed solid, it suggests that 73,200 were off-benefit due to sanctions in December and should be added to the Claimant Count to give a more accurate figure.

How many of the unemployed have been wiped off the books due to Workfare? We don’t know. How many are unemployed but on Universal Credit, which isn’t included in the Claimant Count? We don’t know – 3,610 were on it at the end of November last year, but the DWP has not divided them into those in work and those without.

David Cameron has access to all of this information, and he doesn’t care. He also has access to the mortality figures for claimants of Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance, that the DWP has been withholding from the rest of us, probably for fear of sparking an international outcry. He doesn’t care about that either.

His comments are therefore doubly outrageous – not only is he claiming that his Coalition’s changes are having a beneficial effect when the figures demonstrate the opposite, but he is also claiming the moral high ground when his actions are more appropriate to the populace of the Pit.

In terms of his morality, there can be only one description for him and his cronies:

Bankrupt.

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Jail the DWP fraudsters who tried to fix UK unemployment figures!

[Image from a post on Facebook]

[Image from a post on Facebook]

Iain Duncan Smith and everybody else associated with this scam should be facing charges and the possibility of imprisonment, rather than re-election next year.

Let’s be honest about this: The government hasn’t messed up by omitting Universal Credit claimants from the official unemployment benefit claimant count – the Department for Work and Pensions messed up by admitting this had happened.

It means we may be looking at a long-term attempt to defraud the electorate. The plan seems clear: When the general election finally takes place next year, Iain Duncan Smith would have claimed that his policies have been a brilliant success in creating jobs and cutting down the number of people claiming benefits.

If people are convinced that the DWP has succeeded in cutting the amount of money being paid out in benefits – the burden on the taxpayer – then they are more likely to vote for the Conservatives. Electoral victory means more money for everybody involved – what’s known as a pecuniary advantage.

But the claim has been made by deception. Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception is the dictionary definition of criminal fraud.

There can be no doubt that the omission was deliberate. When it comes to fiddling the official figures, the DWP has ‘form’ going back for years. Look at the lies about the benefit cap pushing people into work; the way people on ESA were encouraged to say they were self-employed and claim tax credits – even though this is not permitted and they were racking up a huge overpayment.

Look at the abuses of the sanction system; look at the abuses of the IB/ESA work capability assessment; look at the number of successful appeals against the DWP that have been kept out of official figures.

The claimant count, which provides the headline unemployment figure, is the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance every month – and has been for many years.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship (if the ship was the Titanic) Universal Credit is up and running – on an extremely limited basis – in certain pilot areas of the country, and people without a job in those areas should be included in the claimant count.

This has not happened. It is possible that this is yet another oversight by Mr Duncan Smith, the government’s top bungler (indeed, he was recently voted favourite cabinet minister by ConservativeHome, so he must be doing something right, and the thing he does most often is make mistakes).

Mr Duncan Smith himself would disagree, however. He has claimed repeatedly and vehemently that his department does not make mistakes with statistics; that everything done on his watch has been justified and that everybody at the DWP is entirely competent.

So we must accept that there was a decision to keep Universal Credit claimants out of the claimant count, meaning that there was a decision to make it seem there are fewer people unemployed than is actually the case.

This seems to be supported by the complaint from the Office for National Statistics, which publishes unemployment figures. The wording runs as follows: “The DWP have not been able to supply ONS with this information in a way that has allowed its inclusion within the Claimant Count [italics mine], resulting in the exclusion of UC claims from this measure.”

This implies that the DWP is perfectly capable of supplying the figures in a manageable way but has deliberately done otherwise.

Further indication that DWP officials knew exactly what they were doing comes from a spokeswoman’s response to this affair, published in the Daily Mirror: “We have been fully transparent in publishing the number of people claiming Universal Credit.

“To ensure consistency the Department released these figures alongside the employment statistics. Universal Credit is both an in- and out-of-work benefit so some claimants may be working.”

In that case, the DWP cannot have been “fully transparent”, can it? Transparency would have required the department to separate UC into “in-work” and “out-of-work” claims, and we have no evidence that this has happened. Until it does, neither the ONS nor the rest of us have any way of knowing how many people are unemployed in the UK.

This has been going on for nearly a year, as Universal Credit was rolled out in its first pilot area in April last year. This means that all unemployment statistics since then have been falsified by the DWP and unemployment figures have been higher than claimed.

The Labour Party has tried to paint this as incompetence, but it is wrong to do so.

This was deliberate, premeditated disinformation.

Now the deception has been uncovered, they are unrepentant.

Perhaps someone should remind them that fraud is still a crime.

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