The Conservative Government has been challenged to let experts analyse the effects of its policies on benefit claimants, following the publication of – extremely limited – mortality figures in August.
Disability studies specialist and disability activist Samuel Miller has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, and employment minister Priti Patel, asking whether they would co-operate if epidemiologists – experts in studying the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations such as benefit claimants – requested permission to conduct a thorough investigation of government policy.
In 2013, Duncan Smith turned down Mr Miller’s request to have his department hire an epidemiologist to conduct an independent study of the impact of the welfare reforms on the mortality of claimants on Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance.
“The professionals most qualified to analyse the recent DWP statistical releases on benefit deaths are Professor David Stuckler and Dr Sanjay Basu, the co-authors of The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills. Why haven’t you asked them to analyze the mortality releases?” wrote Mr Miller.
“In my opinion, thousands of sick and disabled benefit claimants died needlessly because of the benefits backlog, long waits for mandatory reconsideration decisions, and the failure of the DWP to implement a sensible Work and Pensions Committee recommendation: In 2014, that Committee called on the Government to pay sick and disabled people benefits while they appealed against incorrect ‘fit for work’ decisions.
“Why didn’t you implement that recommendation, and if you would do so, how much more would it have cost your department in additional benefit expenditures?
“It’s a hard truth, but it must be stated: The purpose of a benefits backlog is to ensure that people die waiting for their claims to be processed, thus saving the Government money. The Government failed to set a reasonable timescale for the mandatory reconsideration process, leaving it open-ended. The human cost was enormous and thousands died.
“Why is your department so unwilling to implement sensible and humane mortality avoidance measures?”
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.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.