Tag Archives: Ipsos Mori

DWP hires opinion poll firm to survey benefit claimants who challenge decisions. Why?

Our friends at Benefits and Work pose an interesting question: why has the DWP hired an opinion poll company – Ipsos Mori – to quiz PIP mandatory reconsideration claimants?

The rogue government department has been caught out recently, after a Freedom of Information request revealed that assessors from private contractors Atos and Capita have falsified around 7,300 benefit claims in order to deprive vulnerable people of money that is due to them.

Appeals against PIP decisions currently enjoy a success rate of more than 70 per cent, which tends to support the facts revealed by the FoI response.

Now, in a letter to dissenting claimants, the DWP has written that it has asked Ipsos MORI “to help them understand the experience of people who have disagreed with a decision that has been made regarding their benefit claim and to help the Department improve the services they offer”.

Benefits and Work has adopted an attitude of suspicion, with the website requesting information on the questions being asked, from anybody who agrees to answer them.

But why has the DWP hired Ipsos Mori to do this work?

Well, it has been said that opinion pollsters are never really hired to reflect the opinions of the public – but to shape them.

How do they do that?

In the choice of the questions they ask.

For example: asked if a benefit assessor was polite during the interview, even a disgruntled claimant might have to say that they were.

But how can the same claimant point out that their assessment had been doctored to provide false information, if they are not asked a question about it?

They can’t.

And if Ipsos Mori asks only the questions the DWP requires, then the government department will be able to claim that there is nothing wrong with its assessment system, with nobody able to claim that it is not depending on honest answers.

So Benefits and Work is right to advise caution, and to be keen to see the questions being asked.

This Writer would take a simpler view. I would tell anybody who is contacted to respond to the survey: don’t.

Source: Why has DWP hired Ipsos MORI to quiz PIP mandatory reconsideration claimants?

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Poll result reveals DWP doublespeak on the Bedroom Tax


The Department for Work and Pensions is heralding the result of a new poll as proof that a large majority of people support its controversial Bedroom Tax policy – in fact the findings prove nothing of the sort.

Headlined (incorrectly) ‘Poll shows support for removal of spare room subsidy’ – there is no such thing as a spare room subsidy so it cannot be removed – yesterday’s press release relies on some not-so-subtle wordplay and the gullibility of the reader to make its case.

If you want to find out how many people supported the government’s policy, you’ll have to look somewhere else because it is not directly identified anywhere in the article.

“New independent research shows there is strong public support for reducing under-occupation and overcrowding in social housing,” it begins – and this is fair enough.

People do indeed want to reduce under-occupation in social housing – but we have seen, time and time again, that people think there must be adequate social housing available for people who want, or need, to move. This is not what the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government are offering.

Instead, people are being told they can either move into smaller, privately-rented accommodation that will create more expense for the government, or if this is unavailable, pay the Bedroom Tax at 14 per cent of their eligible rent for one room and 25 per cent for two or more. Whatever they do, they end up having to pay more. That is not reasonable.

“In a poll [of 2,021 people] conducted by Ipsos MORI, 78% of respondents said they thought it was important to tackle the problem, which has led to nearly one-third of social housing tenants who receive Housing Benefit living in homes that are too big for their needs,” the article continues.

What problem is this, then? The problem of people occupying social rented properties that are too large for them, as the ConDems want you to believe? Or the problem of successive governments failing to build social housing that is adequate for the needs of the population? The latter seems more likely, don’t you think?

None of the information around that 78 per cent figure suggests that 1,576 people support the Bedroom Tax. I happen to believe it is important to tackle the bottleneck, in order to relieve the overcrowding issue. The Bedroom Tax won’t do that, though. It will just take money from poor people.

Was support for the Bedroom Tax indicated anywhere in these results? No. The closest we get is: “The polling also found that 54% agreed that it is fair that people of working age, who live in social housing, should receive less Housing Benefit if they have more bedrooms than they need.” Even this does not suggest that those questioned agreed with the amount the government is taking from hardworking social tenants.

Curiously, the same proportion of those polled – 54 per cent – said they believed “the coalition government’s removal of the spare room subsidy policy will encourage those receiving less housing benefit to improve their personal situation by, for example, finding work.”

There are a couple of points to make here. Firstly – there is no policy to remove the spare room subsidy because, as previously mentioned, the spare room subsidy has never existed. Secondly, the idea that people can find work (or find better-paying work) is a bad joke.

Only yesterday, a staffer at my local Job Centre was heard admitting that their office had received no new job advertisements in several weeks, and there is no evidence that this is a unique case. It is unrealistic to suggest this as a reasonable way out.

The fact that both these questions received 54 per cent support leads one to question how many of the respondents were affected by the Tax. My guess would be 46 per cent or less. The other 46 per cent, of course.

DWP ministerial rentamouth Esther McVey was on hand to provide the commentary (Iain Duncan Smith is still in hiding, one presumes). She said: “This shows that the public agree that action was needed to tackle overcrowding and to make better use of our housing stock.” Except, as already pointed out, it doesn’t show that the public agree with the government.

She added: “We have seen our Housing Benefit bill exceed £24 billion – an increase of 50% in just 10 years – and this had to be brought under control.”

The Bedroom Tax will do nothing in this respect – in fact, the bill may increase (people moving into private rented property would receive more benefit, and people who have been evicted because they can’t pay their bills after the Tax was imposed will be a burden on councils, who will have to put them up in more expensive B&B accommodation).

Also, increasing numbers of working people are being forced to claim housing benefit because companies are making sure their wages are too low to provide a decent living. Almost a million working people were claiming housing benefit in May this year, and that figure seems sure to have been exceeded by the time the next set of statistics is released on November 13 (Wednesday).

Apparently it is bad for unemployed people to claim the benefits they deserve, but perfectly fine for companies to have the lousy wages they pay topped up at the taxpayers’ expense.

That’s government doublespeak for you!

This benefits bully harasses the powerless but runs away from criticism


Several months ago this blog accused Iain Duncan Smith of being a liar and a coward because, not only had he fabricated statistics on the number of people leaving benefits because of his new benefit cap, but he had also weaseled his way out of an appearance before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for this behaviour.

The very next day, we had to apologise (to readers) and publish a correction saying that the man we call ‘Returned To Unit’ would be attending a follow-up meeting in September, at which the 100,000-signature petition calling him to account for the benefit cap lies, organised by Jayne Linney and Debbie Sayers, would also be presented to MPs.

Apparently the meeting was being timed to coincide with publication of the DWP’s annual report for 2012-13.

Now it is November, and we have still had no meeting with RTU. Nor have we seen the annual report, which is now almost eight months late. Meanwhile the calamities at the DWP have been mounting up.

The latest appears in a Guardian report published yesterday, about the ongoing disaster that is Universal Credit. You may remember, Dear Reader, that the Department for Work and Pensions has admitted it had to write off £34 million that had been spent on the scheme; it subsequently emerged that the total amount to be written off might actually be as high as £161 million.

The Guardian article appears to confirm this, adding £120 million to the £34 already written off if the DWP follows one of two possible plans to take the nightmarish scheme forward.

This would restart Universal Credit from scratch, creating a system based on the Internet – and reducing the need for Job Centre staff – and tends to confirm the suggestion that staff are seen as a liability in the government’s plan to cut back on benefit payments; despite being told to bully, harass and intimidate everyone who darkens their doors, they have an annoying inclination to help people claim the benefits due to them.

The other plan would attempt to salvage the existing system, and is understood to be favoured by the Secretary-in-a-State. The drawback is that it could lead to an even greater waste of taxpayers’ money (not that this has ever been a consideration for Mr… Smith in the past. He’ll waste millions like water while depriving people of the pennies they need to survive).

Universal Credit aims to merge six major benefits and tax credits into one, restricting eligibility for the new benefit in order to cut down on payouts. It relies on the government creating a computer programme that can synchronise systems run by HM Revenue and Customs, the DWP itself, and employers. So far, this has proved impossible and a planned rollout in April was restricted to just one Job Centre, where staff handled only the simplest claims and worked them out on paper. Later revelations showed that the system as currently devised has no way of weeding out fraudulent claims.

A leaked risk assessment says the web-based scheme is “unproven… at this scale”, and that it would not be possible to roll out the new system “within the preferred timescale”. Smith has continually maintained that it will be delivered on time and on budget but, as concerns continue to be raised by senior civil servants that systems are not working as expected and there are too many design flaws, it seems likely this is a career-ending claim.

Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the Work and Pensions Committee?

Earlier this week, the government lost its appeal against a court ruling that its regulations for Workfare and other mandatory work activity schemes were illegal. Public Interest Lawyers, who handled the case against the government, has taken the view that anyone who fell foul of the regulations may now take action to get their money back. But the matter is complicated by the fact that the government unwisely passed a retrospective law to legalise the rules, in a bid to stop the 228,000 benefit claimants it had sanctioned after they refused to work for their benefits from demanding the money that ministers had – in effect – stolen from them. Iain Duncan Smith is the man behind this mess.

Is this why he hasn’t deigned to account for himself before the committee?

We have yet to learn why this man felt justified in claiming 8,000 – and then 12,000 – people had left benefits because of the £26,000 cap he introduced in April (he claimed it is equal to average family income but in fact it is £5,000 and change short of that amount as he failed to consider benefits that such families could draw). Information from polling company Ipsos Mori showed that the real number of people who had dropped their claims after hearing of the scheme was more likely to be 450 – just nine per cent of the figure he originally quoted.

Is this why he hasn’t put a meeting with the committee in his diary?

Perhaps we should not be surprised, though – it seems that RTU has never had a decent grip on the way his department works. For example, he allowed George Osborne to cancel Disability Living Allowance for one-fifth of claimants in 2010, claiming that the benefit had been “spiralling” out of control because it had 3.1 million claimants – triple the number since it was introduced in 1992. Smith said the rise was “inexplicable” but in fact the explanation is simplicity itself, as The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee pointed out just two days ago:

“DLA is only paid to those of working age, but when they retire they keep it, so as more people since 1992 move into retirement, numbers rise fast. There has been no change in numbers with physical conditions, despite a larger population; back injuries have declined with the decline of heavy industry. There has been a real growth in numbers with learning disabilities: more premature babies survive but with disabilities, while those with Down’s syndrome no longer die young. More people with mental illness claim DLA now, following changes in case law: there has been no increase in mental illness, with 7% of the population seriously ill enough to be receiving treatment, yet only 1% claim DLA. Psychosis is the commonest DLA diagnosis, hardly a trivial condition. This pattern of disability mirrors the rest of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with nothing exceptional here.”

In other words, from the moment he took over this hugely important government department, with its huge – and controversial – budget, Iain Duncan Smith had about as much understanding of its workings as a child.

It seems Sir John Major was exactly right when he expressed fears about the DWP Secretary’s ability last week, claiming his genius “has not been proven”.

Is this why we’ve seen neither hide nor … head of the Secretary of State?

Finally, Dear Reader, you will be aware that Vox Political submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking for up-to-date statistics on the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died during a claim or while appealing against a decision about a claim – and that the request was dismissed on the indefensible grounds that it was “vexatious”. This was not good enough so the matter went to the Information Commissioner’s office and, according to an email received this week, will soon be brought to a conclusion.

Is this why Iain Duncan Smith is hiding?

Perhaps it’s time to drag him out of his bolt-hole and force some answers out of him.

Jayne (Linney), in her blog, has called on people who use Twitter to start tweeting demands for Smith to come forward, using the hashtags #whereisIDS and #DWPLateReview. This is good, and those of you who do so are welcome to use any of the information in this article as ammunition in such a campaign.

There is nothing to stop anyone writing to the press – local or national – to ask what is going on and why benefit claimants are being left in suspense about the future of their claims. People have to work out how they will pay their bills, and the continued uncertainty caused by Mr… Smith’s catalogue of calamities is causing problems up and down the country.

A short message to your MP might help stir the Secretary of State out of his slumber, also.

In fact, let’s use all the tools at our disposal to expose this man for what he is – just as this blog stated in July and in May: A liar and a coward who has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled – not just from public office, but from public life altogether.

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The Tory share of the vote is dwindling – why is Labour chasing it?

"Who's been sitting in MY chair?" Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes - that aren't even there.

“Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Nick Clegg would be right to feel supplanted as Labour moves further rightwards, groping for Tory votes – that aren’t even there. [Picture: Reuters]

One of the things that really rankled about Rachel Reeves’ attempt at Tory talk in yesterday’s Observer was the (observable) fact that she didn’t need to.

Why try to out-Tory the Conservatives when their share of the vote has been going down at every election – among a proportion of active voters that is – itself – reducing?

So in 1955, they managed to snag 49.6 per cent of the votes. In 2010 this had dropped to 36.1 per cent. Turnout was 76.8 per cent in the first instance and 65.1 in the second. They got 38 per cent of all available votes in 1955 and 23.5 per cent in 2010.

Some could point out that Labour’s share in 2010 was only 29 per cent – around 18.8 per cent of all available votes – but this just proves the point. Neoliberal New Labour were very close to the Conservatives in outlook and policy and most people in the UK don’t want that.

But Rachel Reeves indicated that these policies would continue on her watch, and that’s why people reacted so strongly against the Observer interview.

Perhaps Labour should have done some research on this. Yes, the party has its ‘Your Britain’ website, for members to bring forward ideas – but I’ve been there and didn’t like it. It seemed needlessly complicated, with efforts made to get people discussing particular policy areas at particular times when it would have been better to let people just say what they want – when they want – and sort it out at the receiving end.

Besides – that’s just for members. How much research has Labour done on the doorstep? What do people who aren’t aligned to either main political party want? That is where Labour will get its votes.

Even pointing to research by the polling organisations doesn’t help here. Ipsos-MORI famously polled more than 2,500 people about the benefit cap earlier this year, and Iain Duncan Smith was delighted to announce that a significant majority of respondents were in favour.

It was left to this very blog to break the news that only 21 per cent of those respondents knew enough about the cap to give an educated opinion. It would be informative to know how many – of all the respondents, not just the 21 per cent – were actually affected by it.

All of this is a great shame that may worsen into a missed opportunity. There are some terrific ideas around at the moment and all Rachel Reeves – and Labour as a whole – has to do is look around for them.

The Fabian Society website carried an article entitled Welcome to DWP the other day, in which most current proposals for reform of the system were rejected – which is a telling indictment of the state of the nation in itself. The stated reasons were that they would reduce the incomes of poor families (no thank you, Labour! You’re not going to out-Tory the Tories!) or fatally undermine universalism.

But among the ideas that were there, it was suggested Labour needs to reform individual benefits before setting its planned upper ceiling on the benefits budget. To that, I would add that the ceiling needs to be described as a proportion of a Labour government’s overall budget – not limited to a particular sum of money. This is the only way to keep it fair as inflation increases costs and devalues the pounds in our pockets, year on year.

Reducing unemployment, involuntary part time work and low pay by getting people into full-time jobs on a living wage could cut billions off the benefit bill (and boost the tax take at the same time).

For right now, the article stated, La Reeves needs to work on Labour’s perception problem – the false image created for it by an unsympathetic mass media, that it is ‘soft’ on benefits. This is based on misconceptions; only a quarter of social security goes on working-age people without jobs, and benefit fraud is – as has been explained ad absurdum on this site – miniscule.

Before the recession, Labour had cut the number of people out of work and really made work pay (with tax credits – not necessarily a great way forward, but a start – and these could be eased out of service as pressure was exerted on employers to adopt living wages). The social security budget was falling, not increasing. That’s what Rachel Reeves needs to be saying. Labour’s policies were working. The public has been misinformed. A new Labour government could create a winning formula again.

It could happen – if Labour stops being the Party of Plastic Tories and starts being the Party of the Worker once again.

More fake statistics from the denial factory


One lie leads to another, as Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith seems to have found out – now that he has started, he can’t stop for fear that he’ll be found out.

Tough. The evidence is available for all to see.

His latest attempt at hoodwinking the public is a press release, Public think benefit cap claimants should work or move, in which even the headline is a lie.

It aims to publicise the results of a survey by Ipsos-MORI, examining public attitudes to the cap. The survey was carried out among more than 2,000 people who were selected to be representative of the UK as a whole.

“The vast majority (70 per cent) of the public think people affected by the benefit cap should be prepared to find jobs or work more hours,” the piece begins. This is accurate, according to the survey being quoted – but it is based on the premise that the benefit cap should be set at £26,000 per year for a workless family, which is significantly lower than what was originally advertised by the DWP – the income of an average working family.

The DWP, imposing the cap, drummed up support by saying it would limit the amount workless families could receive to the same as the average income of a family in work, claiming that this was £26,000. In fact, a working family claiming all the benefits to which it is entitled can get £31,000 – so the cap means workless families are at least £5,000 per year worse-off, a huge gap of 16-17 per cent.

“Two-thirds (65 per cent) say they should be willing to move to a cheaper property,” the release claims – but the Ipsos-MORI report’s summary makes it clear that support for the policy drops to 44 per cent – a minority – and opposition rises to 26 per cent if it means those benefit claimants affected by the cap have to move to other areas to find more affordable accommodation.

The press release, which came out to support the government policy ‘Simplifying the welfare system and making sure work pays’, continues: “Independent research published today (10 October 2013) shows that 60 per cent support the cap even if it means that those affected have to take a job, regardless of the pay.” So now it seems that making work pay is not the objective; cutting wages is the real plan.

“The Ipsos MORI report finds around three-quarters of the public support the benefit cap in principle.” This, at least, is accurate and is no bad thing. Benefits should be lower than wages – they are a safety net that should enable people to carry on living while they find paying work. But in return, employers need to pay a living wage, ensuring that nobody in work has to claim any benefit at all. That, at the moment, is sorely lacking in the UK.

“58 per cent think that politicians needed to do more to reduce the welfare bill.” But they weren’t asked how they thought this should be done, or whether politicians were doing the right things.

“50 per cent think that benefits are too generous.” Among those who’ve received benefits this drops, but surprisingly only to 45 per cent. Among those who haven’t received benefits, 62 per cent thought them too generous.

“11 per cent think the benefits system is working effectively.” But they weren’t asked whether the Conservative-led Coalition was to blame for the poor performance.

At this point, the press release stops quoting statistics – but there is one further piece of evidence that people need to know. It relates to what the people who were surveyed knew about the benefit cap before they answered the questions.

Only 29 per cent knew even a fair amount about the cap before answering the survey’s questions. Of the rest, 42 per cent said they knew “just a little” about it, 18 per cent said they’d heard of it but knew nothing at all about it, and eight per cent had never even heard of it.

So this survey – put out by the DWP as a measure of public support for the Benefit Cap – is in fact a measure of public ignorance.

Why should anybody accept these findings as authoritative? How can we accept the 70 per cent view that people affected by the cap should be prepared to find jobs or work – that’s fewer than those who admitted they don’t know much about it!

In fact, none of these statistics can claim to be authoritative because only a tiny minority of those surveyed knew enough about the subject.

Now look at Iain Duncan Smith’s comment: “Today’s report makes it clear that the public support setting a limit on benefits and the successful delivery of the benefit cap shows we are committed to returning fairness to the welfare state.”

Lie. It shows that most of the public are ignorant about the limit. The successful delivery of a benefit cap set at 17 per cent less than average income shows that he is committed to returning unfairness to the benefit system.

“Claimants affected by the cap need to make decisions about work and housing and what they can afford, just as hardworking families do. We have made sure the support is there to help people back into work and the Benefit Cap and Universal Credit will ensure that work pays.”

Lie. The press release itself states that people are being pressurised into any work they can get – whether it pays or not. Support is not available to get people back into jobs because the jobs aren’t there. And Universal Credit does not work.

The release goes on to state: “Since claimants were first notified of the benefit cap in April 2012, Jobcentre Plus have helped around 16,500 potentially capped claimants into work.” The wording is very careful; notice no mention is made that they moved into work specifically to avoid the cap – Smith and others have been reprimanded over such claims in the past. But the context suggests that the benefit cap is what motivated these people to get jobs, and that is unsupportable as well.

What a shambles.

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Iain Duncan Smith – the Musical!

When he realises we’ve started making satirical music videos about him, Iain Duncan Smith will probably think he’s hit the big time.

Sad, deluded little man.

This is a project that has been developing for a while, after RTU himself went around the media, denying all the factual evidence that said his benefit cap had not put 12,000 people into work, as he was then claiming.

(A previous claim that 8,000 had gone into employment to avoid the effect of the benefit cap had been disproved by polling organisation Ipsos Mori, who surveyed 500 of those 8,000 people and found that only 45 had started work because of the cap. That’s nine per cent of the total claimed by the Secretary-in-a-State).

On this particular media junket, he refused to countenance the factual evidence that was put in front of him, saying he “believed” the anecdotal evidence provided to him by a few members of staff at Job Centre Plus.

That is now worthy of comment in itself, as he has been quick to dismiss the findings of the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, as “anecdotal” – and she has spoken to far more people than he did!

Inevitably, Vox Political published an article on the subject and – because the SoS had made it a matter of belief, prefaced the story with a few verses that could be sung to the old Not The Nine o’clock News/Rowan Atkinson song ‘I Believe‘.

That would have been the end of it – but then it became clear that Mr … Smith was delaying a meeting with the Commons Work and Pensions committee, convened to make him account for his manipulation of the statistics.

It seems clear that he has been waiting for the fuss to die down.

Dear reader, you can probably work out the rest for yourself. The lyrics and music were available and, with the addition of a few more words, Vox Political went into the recording studio.

The audio track that resulted is rudimentary but does the job. Yes, that is Vox founder Mike Sivier’s voice, for which he apologises. He played all the instruments as well, so he supposes he should be doubly apologetic.

The video was put together with photographs trawled from the Internet, interspersed with specially-written captions, and is intended only to give YouTube viewers something visual to enjoy while they’re listening to the song. All the images are copyright their respective creators and were freely stolen for humorous use – for which, again, we apologise.

We think the result is a lot of fun – amateurish, haphazard and slapdash though it is.

It gets the point across.

Please feel free to copy the code and embed the YouTube video anywhere you see fit. This was made to be seen, to be enjoyed, and to get across a message about Iain Duncan Smith and his beliefs.

We hope you all enjoy it!

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If we’re talking about evil, did someone mention Iain Duncan Smith?

Double standard man: Iain Duncan Smith reckons its all right for him to fake claims about the efficacy of his policies, in the belief that nobody can disprove them. What would he do if his opponents made extravagant claims about their HARMFUL effects, and used the same argument on him?

Double standard man: Iain Duncan Smith reckons its all right for him to make extravagant claims about the efficacy of his policies, in the belief that nobody can disprove them. What would he do if his opponents made extravagant claims about their HARMFUL effects, and used the same argument on him?

I did – several times in the previous article.

We can’t seem to get away from LieDS, if we’re discussing falsehood, perversion of the facts, pretending to do one thing and then doing another. He is an archetypal Tory, it seems.

Yesterday he was the subject of an article on the esteemed Another Angry Voice blog, which is heartily recommended.

This was an entry in the Angry Yorkshireman’s series – number 16, no less – on ‘Feeble Right-Wing Fallacies’. The phenomenon it describes is described as the “no, you disprove it fallacy” or the “libelling the evidence fallacy”.

This is a tactic most recently used by Mr Dishonest Smith on Radio 4’s Today Programme, when he defended his misuse of statistics in support of the benefit cap (the claim that 8,000 people had quit benefits because they had been told about the cap) by saying “you can’t disprove what I said either” (this has since been proved inaccurate – 500 of the 8,000 were tracked down by Ipsos MORI and asked why they got off benefits; only 45 said it had anything to do with the benefit cap). He went on to make his “I believe” speech that Vox Political ridiculed (rather well) last week.

The article states: “His position is that there is no onus upon him to provide any kind of empirical evidence to back his assertions, that a proclamation of belief is all that he needs in order to say something, and that the burden of proof actually falls on anyone that wants to criticise his unsubstantiated claims.

“If we boil it down to even simpler terms, this is the Iain Duncan Smith stance:

  • I can say whatever I like without providing any evidence, as long as I say that I have faith that it is true.
  • If you want to criticise what I said, then you must provide evidence that it is false.

“The hypocrisy in this stance is appalling. Iain believes that he can just make up evidence as he sees fit, but he is immune from criticism for having made up evidence, as long as he claims that he believes it to be true and unless his critic does what he doesn’t feel the need to do and (actually develop some coherent evidence in order to) prove the opposite.”

The article goes on to draw the obvious comparison with libel cases. In court cases concerning libel, it doesn’t matter whether the allegation is true or not – the onus is on the defendent to prove there was sufficient evidence to support the claim. If there was not, then the defendant is guilty and must be punished. In commenting contrary to his own department’s official statistics, it could therefore be claimed that IDS committed libel.

There’s more about the Secretary-in-a-State’s beliefs, but it is to be found on Another Angry Voice, not here. We have other fish to fry.

There is a phrase: ‘Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander’. It means, ‘If something is wrong (or right) for people on one side of an argument, it’s wrong (or right) for both sides.

In other words, if Iain Duncan Smith thinks it’s okay to present unsupported comments as fact, in the way he did on the Today Programme, justifying it by repeatedly saying he believes he is right and challenging his detractors to disprove it (as we have), then what would he do…

What would he do if we all told him the available evidence suggests that he, his ministers and his department, having knowingly imposed a policy that has led to the deaths of many thousands of people who may otherwise have survived for an unknown period of time, have conspired to hide evidence that the same policy is responsible for many more such deaths, in ever-increasing number, in order to avoid any public outcry that might force the government to halt this policy, and therefore stop the deaths?

What would he do if we said we believe this to be right, and pointed out that we have already seen evidence that people have died after incorrect decisions were made about their health, and that we believe this indicates the continued refusal to provide any further evidence about the current death rate proves that it is much worse. What would he do if we said we believe this because he hasn’t disproved it?

I’m not saying it now.

I’m just wondering what he would do if I did.

(The first Vox Political collection, Strong Words and Hard Times, is now available and may be ordered from this website)

Iain Duncan Smith: Big on belief – lacking in truth

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer - or is he eyeing up his next victim?

Strong beliefs: But is Iain Duncan Smith about to say a prayer, or eyeing up his next victim?

I believe that Chris Huhne really wasn’t a crook
I believe Britannia Unchained is a readable book
I’m prepared to believe that the government isn’t leaking
And that Boris Johnson sometimes thinks before speaking
Yes I believe J Hunt is clever
Norman Tebbit will live forever
And that GM foods will make us healthier
And there were WMDs out in the desert.

I believe that Cameron means what he says.
And that Michael Gove got good ‘O’ Level grades.
And I believe our courts are great;
That the NHS is safe:
And the economy’s professionally-run…
And that George Osborne knows how to do his sums.

And I believe that the Devil is ready to repent
But I don’t believe IDS should be in government.
(With apologies to Rowan Atkinson)

Early to bed and early to rise… means you have a chance to hear the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions put his foot down his own throat on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Needless to say, I missed it. It’s a shame, because the letter of complaint I was to write to Andrew Dilnot of the UK Statistics Authority would have been slightly different if I had.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

In yesterday’s article, I mentioned the need to query a claim attributed by the BBC News website to the Department for Work and Pensions. True to my word, I wrote – and sent – the following:

A report on the BBC website has stated, ‘More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.’

“It continues: ‘The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres. The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.’

“I am writing to ask you to investigate this claim, as I believe it may have its origins in a previous statement that you have already shown to be false – relating to a claim that 8,000 people had found jobs because of the benefit cap.”

I went on to quote Andrew Dilnot’s letter containing his verdict on the ‘8,000’ claim – that it was “unsupported by the official statistics” in two documents, one of which “explicitly” stated that the figures were “‘not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact’”, while the other noted “Once policy changes and methodological improvements have been accounted for, this figure has been no behavioural change.’”

I also drew attention to the comments made by John Shield, the DWP’s Director of Communications, at a meeting with the Commons Work and Pensions Committee last Wednesday (July 10) when he seemed to be saying that Mr… Smith ignored his officers’ advice and went ahead with a false statement.

I now dearly wish I had known about the part of the Today interview in which Mr… Smith discussed his own opinion of the affair.

The Huffington Post reported it as follows: “Challenged over the fact his statement was not supported by officials statistics published by his own department, Duncan Smith said: ‘Yes, but by the way, you can’t disprove what I said either.'” We’ll come back to that in a moment!

“‘I believe this to be right, I believe that we are already seeing people going back to work who were not going to go back to work,’ he said.

“‘I believe that this will show, as we move forward ,that people who were not seeking work are now seeking work.'”

“The work and pension’s secretary was mocked by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Anne McGuire, who tweeted that ‘I believe’ was ‘a substitute for facts in IDS world’.”

Well, maybe his Roman Catholic upbringing makes him a creature of strong beliefs.

Unfortunately, his beliefs don’t hold a candle to the facts – and yes, we can disprove what he said!

The blog alittleecon takes up the story: “Ipsos Mori undertook telephone interviews with 500 of the 8,000 people who had found work since the announcement of the benefit cap to try to show that people had been motivated by the cap to find work.

“The problem is that they did not find that. Remember, IDS originally tried to claim that all 8,000 had moved into work because of the benefit cap. The survey found though that 15% of them hadn’t even heard of the benefit cap, and another 31% only knew a little about it. Only 57% remembered being informed that the cap would affect them, and of these, 71% were already looking for work.

“About half of those who remembered getting a letter about the cap took action afterwards. For 31%, this meant looking for work (although half of these were already looking). This means of the 500 surveyed, only around 45 people started looking for work because of the cap that weren’t doing so before. 45!!

“Looking at the results then, and if we assume the survey was representative of all 8,000 people, far from being able to say all 8,000 found work as a direct result of the cap, the best that can be said in reality is that about 720 people started looking for work and found it after hearing of the cap that weren’t looking before. Not a particularly impressive behavioural change.”

There can be no doubt about this. Ipsos Mori is a reputable polling agency and its figures are trustworthy.

It doesn’t matter what Iain Duncan Smith believes, his figures were wrong – plainly wrong.

He has no business peddling them around the TV and radio studios as though they’re set in stone.

He has no business mentioning them at all.

And, if he is determined to keep pushing his falsehoods on us, claiming they aren’t lies because he believes in them, then he has no business being a Cabinet Minister.

The benefit cap reveals the black centre of IDS’ mind


The long-feared roll-out of the benefit cap happened today. There has been a great deal of shouting about it from all sides, but it is possible to get a balanced view – by linking news articles from opposing sources such as, say, New Statesman, the BBC and the Daily Mail.

Yes, the Daily Mail. I’m serious.

The benefit cap is one of the Coalition’s most popular policies – not the ONLY popular policy; believe it or not, a sizeable proportion of the population think Cameron and Co are doing a good job. New Statesman quotes a YouGov poll in which 79 per cent of people, including 71 per cent of Labour voters, support the cap – with just 12 per cent opposed. The Mail quotes Ipsos Mori, whose poll states 74 per cent support the cap.

We’ll start with the Statesman, which gives us the facts that Iain Duncan Smith – architect of the policy – won’t want people to know:

“1. An out-of-work family is never better off than an in-work family

The claim on which the policy rests – that a non-working family can be better off than a working one – is a myth since it takes no account of the benefits that an in-work family can claim to increase their income. For instance, a couple with four children earning £26,000 after tax and with rent and council tax liabilities of £400 a week is entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit and council tax support, £3,146 in child benefit and more than £4,000 in tax credits.

“Were the cap based on the average income (as opposed to average earnings) of a working family, it would be set at a significantly higher level of £31,500. The suggestion that the welfare system “rewards” worklessness isn’t true; families are already better off in employment. Thus, the two central arguments for the policy – that it will improve work incentives and end the “unfairness” of out-of-work families receiving more than their in-work equivalents – fall down.

“Contrary to ministers’ rhetoric, the cap will hit in-work as well as out-of-work families. A single person must be working at least 16 hours a week and a couple at least 24 hours a week (with one member working at least 16 hours) to avoid the cap.

“2. It will punish large families and increase child poverty

The cap applies regardless of family size, breaking the link between need and benefits. As a result, most out-of-work families with four children and all those with five or more will be pushed into poverty (defined as having an income below 60 per cent of the median income for families of a similar size). Duncan Smith has claimed that “at £26,000 a year it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty” but his own department’s figures show that the poverty threshold for a non-working family with four children, at least two of whom are over 14, is £26,566 – £566 above the cap. The government’s Impact Assessment found that 52 per cent of those families affected have four or more children.

By applying the policy retrospectively, the government has chosen to penalise families for having children on the reasonable assumption that existing levels of support would be maintained. While a childless couple who have never worked will be able to claim benefits as before (provided they do not exceed the cap), a large family that falls on hard times will now suffer a dramatic loss of income. It was this that led the House of Lords to vote in favour of an amendment by Church of England bishops to exclude child benefit from the cap (which would halve the number of families affected) but the defeat was subsequently overturned by the government in the Commons.

“The DWP has released no official estimate of the likely increase in child poverty but a leaked government analysis suggested around 100,000 would fall below the threshold once the cap is introduced.

“3. It will likely cost more than it saves

“For all the political attention devoted to it, the cap is expected to save just £110m a year, barely a rounding error in the £201bn benefits bill. But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles’s office to David Cameron stated, the measure “does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally.”

“4. It will increase homelessness and do nothing to address the housing crisis

“Most of those who fall foul of the cap do so because of the amount they receive in housing benefit (or, more accurately, landlord subsidy) in order to pay their rent. At £23.8bn, the housing benefit bill, which now accounts for more than a tenth of the welfare budget, is far too high but rather than tackling the root of the problem by building more affordable housing, the government has chosen to punish families unable to afford reasonable accommodation without state support.

“The cap will increase homelessness by 40,000 and force councils to relocate families hundreds of miles away, disrupting their children’s education and reducing employment opportunities (by requiring them to live in an area where they have no history of working).

“5. It will encourage family break-up

Duncan Smith talks passionately of his desire to reduce family breakdown but the cap will serve to encourage it. As Simon Hughes has pointed out, the measure creates “a financial incentive to be apart” since parents who live separately and divide the residency of their children between them will be able to claim up to £1,000 a week in benefits, while a couple living together will only be able to claim £500.”

The BBC opened with a much sunnier perspective that has caused Vox Political to send a query to the UK Statistics Authority.

According to the report, “More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.” Oh, really?

“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres,” the BBC report went on. “The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.”

Didn’t Iain Duncan Smith get into trouble only a few months ago, for reporting that 8,000 people had moved into work after being told about the cap?

Only last week, his own officials told the Work and Pensions committee he had ignored small print in their reports, stating clearly that he could not use the figures to claim that any “behavioural change” had taken place.

Vox‘s article last week quoted Dame Anne Begg, who asked: “So no-one checking the written articles from the Secretary of State – from the statisticians’ point of view – actually said ‘Secretary of State – if you look at the little footnote… It says that you cannot interpret that these people have gone into work as a result of these statistics’. Nobody pointed that out?“

John Shield, Director of Communications at the DWP, responded: “In this instance it did involve the press office. I’m just trying to be clear that not everything that comes out of the department will go through us – particularly when there are political ends.”

In other words, the Secretary of State ignored his advisors to make a political point that had no basis in fact. He lied to the public.

How do we know he isn’t doing it again?

A letter to Mr Dilnot is in order, I think.

Finally, to the Daily Mail, where it was reported that “Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith today accused the BBC of launching a ‘politically-motivated’ attack on government plans to cap benefits at £26,000.

“The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Corporation of using ‘lots of little cases’ to claim that limiting welfare payments would not get people back to work.”

Unfortunately for Mr… Smith, his story unravelled further down the piece, when it was revealed that he told the nation that HIS evidence is right because it’s from people working in Jobcentres: “This is advisers, they talk to me… I talk to people actually in the Jobcentres.”

That’s anecdotal, and may not be used to suggest a national trend. He is using lots of little cases to claim that his cap will work.

So we go from the cold, hard facts, to the comforting fantasy, to the shattering of the Secretary-in-a-State’s temper on national radio when the flaws in his scheme were exposed.

Mail readers, in that paper’s ‘comment’ column, seem to have supported his viewpoint – despite the facts.

Will their opinions change when the horror stories start appearing – or will they stick their fingers in their ears and scream, “La la la I’m not listeniiiiiing!” – as Mr… Smith did (figuratively speaking) on the Today programme?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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