Is it working? UK records 43 coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours compared to 87 yesterday
You can see it in situ by following the link at the bottom of the article. It was a Daily Mail headline on March 25.
It’s a lie, of course – but this time the Mail doesn’t seem to be to blame.
No, this time it’s the Tory government who seem to be at fault.
It wasn’t realistic for the government to claim that the number of deaths had halved, so early in the pandemic’s residence in the UK.
So the BBC’s Newsnight questioned it – and was told by the government that that it cannot add deaths to the total as they happen, because it has to obtain the permission of each family before it can do so.
This is not true.
There is no law – covering data protection or otherwise – requiring family members to give their permission before a death can be added to the total attributed to the coronavirus.
It’s just a number, you see; no personal details are being passed on.
The government had also changed the time at which the number of new deaths was reported, meaning there had been a shorter period between reports.
And according to Skwawkbox, it seems deaths at home, in care homes and in hospital A&E units have also been omitted.
Thoroughly down after learning this. Why do we have to be the country that gets the politicians who do this stuff.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Has anybody noticed how the Department for Work and Pensions contracts out the dirty work of benefit assessments to organisations that have proved untrustworthy – but can’t even be trusted to collect and release its own statistics in an appropriate way?
Congratulations to South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck for getting the DWP to agree to measure the number of people who don’t have enough to eat, as part of a national survey carried out every year. It will refer to people who either can’t afford to buy sufficient food or are worried about their ability to buy food in the future.
But will these figures see the light of day? The DWP doesn’t seem to have published any responses to “Freedom of Information” requests since March 2016.
It seems we have all been deceived, and the scale of the crisis facing emergency medicine may be greater than first thought.
Emails from NHS Improvement told Trusts to boost their treatment figures by including data from walk-in centres, in conflict with guidance issued by NHS England in 2015.
It means trusts’ performance since last October, when the first email was sent, may have been artificially inflated.
The UK Statistics Authority has demanded an explanation.
Crucially, This Writer wants to know who ordered the changes – and why.
NHS hospital trusts in England may have to recalculate A&E performance figures from last October onwards.
The UK Statistics Authority has told NHS England to explain changes to the recording of A&E data.
It says the changes – highlighted by BBC News – could have left people reaching “misleading conclusions”.
They raise questions over some trusts’ performance on the highest profile NHS performance target – that patients in A&E are seen within four hours.
The official target requires 95% of patients to be treated, assessed or discharged within four hours, a figure the NHS has failed to meet since July 2015.
A hospital trust’s performance figures include the main accident and emergency department (known as Type 1) and minor injuries or care centres (known as Type 3).
These centres tend to see and treat patients a lot more quickly than those needing emergency care.
Data in these clinics tends to pull up the overall performance of a trust. This is confirmed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.
The BBC has seen emails sent by NHS Improvement, the body responsible for overseeing trusts, in October last year.
The implication is that including these centres would help improve overall performance.
This, and another email sent later in October by NHS Improvement, was seen by trusts as a request to add in data from walk-in centres not run by them and not on hospital grounds.
This is in direct conflict with clear guidance issued in November 2015 by NHS England, which says walk-in centre data can be included only if the trust has clinical responsibility for the service or if it co-located on the trust’s grounds.
Labour have reported Boris Johnson to the UK’s statistics watchdog, after he said the discredited claim that leaving the EU would mean Britain gets £350m a week extra to spend on the NHS was an under-estimate.
The Foreign Secretary claimed the official Vote Leave campaign could have used an even higher figure on their infamous red bus during the referendum campaign.
He said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”
Mr Johnson claimed the UK’s gross contribution would increase to £438 million by the end of the proposed transition period in 2021.
Here‘s the letter from Keir Starmer to Sir David Norgrove, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority:
Foreign Secretary’s comments about the UK’s financial contribution to the EU
I am writing to seek clarification on comments made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday [15 January] about the UK’s financial contribution to the European Union (EU).
In an interview with The Guardian the Foreign Secretary said: “There was an error on the side of the [Vote Leave] bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control.”
The newspaper reports that “Johnson argued that the UK’s EU contribution was already up to £362m per week for 2017-18 and would rise annually to £410m, £431m, and then to £438m by 2020-21 – ‘theoretically the last year of the transition period.’”
The £350m a week claim made by the Vote Leave campaign has been widely condemned as inaccurate and misleading. For example, in September of last year the Statistics Authority wrote to the Foreign Secretary saying, “it is a clear misuse of official statistics.” And yet, Mr Johnson has chosen to repeat this statement and expand on the claim even further. I do not believe this to be acceptable.
I would therefore be grateful if you could make a statement on the accuracy of the Foreign Secretary’s most recent comments.
This Writer can’t wait for the reply. Can you?
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This seems a reprehensible – but all-too-typical – dereliction of duty by MPs on all sides of Parliament.
Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams, is usually red-hot on this subject, and I wonder if she has been notified and asked to seek explanation, at least with regard to those members of her own party who – it seems – couldn’t be bothered to ask the obvious questions.
Nine MPs on a Commons committee are refusing to explain why they failed to ask the minister for disabled people about shocking figures that suggest attempted suicides among people claiming out-of-work disability benefits doubled between 2007 and 2014.
The work and pensions select committee was passed the figures by Disability News Service (DNS) a few days before Sarah Newton gave evidence last month.
But despite being promised that the figures had “informed the briefing” prepared for the MPs on the committee ahead of the minister’s evidence session – and Labour MP Neil Coyle telling DNS that he was “sure it will be raised” – no effort was made to ask Newton about them.
And this week, none of the nine committee members who attended the session – Labour’s Frank Field, who chairs the committee, Coyle (pictured), Ruth George and Stephen McCabe, Tory MPs Heidi Allen, Andrew Bowie, Alex Burghart and Chris Green, and SNP’s Chris Stephens – would explain why they failed to ask the minister about the figures.
Instead, they hid behind the committee’s media officer, who accused DNS of trying to “circumvent” her by asking the MPs individually why they failed to raise the issue with Newton.
Why is the DWP not under continual criticism for the way it collects and presents statistics? The intention is always to put forward the best possible impression of the Department – and never to present the facts in a clear, usable way.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of manipulating statistics in an attempt to hide the ongoing barriers, cuts and harassment experienced by disabled people seeking support from a key disability employment programme.
The claims followed the release of new figures which showed the number of disabled people approved every year for support from the Access to Work (AtW) programme had fallen by 15 per cent under seven years of Conservative rule.
The scheme has been repeatedly praised as an effective way of supporting disabled people in work and ensuring they keep their jobs, and provides funding for work-related support such as aids and equipment, communication support, travel to work, physical adaptations to a workplace, and hiring support workers.
Deaf and disabled campaigners cast grave doubt last night (Wednesday) on the figures and suggested DWP was attempting to camouflage continuing cuts to people’s support.
Although the figures show the number of people who had support packages approved in each year, they do not include those who continue to receive AtW support without the need for reassessment, or show how many people lost their support or had it cut after being reassessed.
This means it is impossible to know how many disabled people are currently receiving AtW compared with previous years, or how the average level of support packages have risen or fallen.
Ellen Clifford (pictured, right), Inclusion London’s campaigns and policy manager, said DWP’s document “takes creative use of statistics to a whole new level of unreality”.
She said the motivation for changing the way the statistics were collated could only be to disguise what was really happening “because they now provide a much less clear picture of how many people the scheme is benefiting… The manipulation of figures in this way suggests the DWP has something to hide”.
Thousands of disabled people were wrongly found fit to work [Image: PA].
Here’s another example of how the Department for Work and Pensions distorts the facts.
This organisation is saying the number of cases brought to appeal was only a small proportion of the overall caseload – but we know that the DWP has measures in place to ensure that many wronged claimants are unable to get as far as making an appeal.
The DWP’s claims – about the number of successful appeals – are meaningless.
Has everybody forgotten about ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – the “delaying tactic” aimed at reducing the number of sick and disabled people claiming benefits?
Since October 2013, claimants of ESA and other benefits who want to dispute a decision made on their claim have had to ask DWP to reconsider the decision – a “mandatory reconsideration” (MR) – before they are allowed to lodge an appeal with the independent benefits tribunal system. Mandatory reconsideration is not restricted to those who are found ‘fit for work’, though, and claimants can use it to request re-classification from the Work-Related Activity Group into the Support Group, for example.
When it was introduced, DWP civil servants were overturning 40 per cent of ESA decisions. Figures published in June this year showed that this had fallen and only 11 per cent of those who appealed through the MR process – 10,000 people per month – were successful.
Campaigners said this showed the MR stage is simply delaying the benefits process, and pushing disabled people already at risk of poverty into greater hardship.
So we simply don’t know how many people were wrongly defined as fit for work by the DWP.
How many people are pushed into such hardship that they have to give up and accept a false decision that they should claim Jobseekers’ Allowance instead, even though they are not fit to work? We don’t know.
But this skews the appeal results, so the DWP’s claim – that the number of cases brought to appeal is just a small proportion of the overall caseload – is meaningless.
The BBC’s Tory economics editor Robert Peston is clutching at straws again.
He’s trying to persuade us all that everything we thought we knew about the UK’s economy during the Coalition Parliament was wrong, and that growth was much stronger than we thought. He is being economical with the truth, it seems.
He writes: “The ONS … says that the economy grew 1.5% in the general election year of 2010, then 2% after austerity bit in 2011 – revised up by the ONS from 1.6% – and then 1.2% in 2012, when the eurozone’s economic crisis imposed maximum pain on us.
“The previous picture, of austerity reducing growth from 1.9% in 2010, to 1.6% in 2011, to 0.7% in 2012, has been magicked away by the official statisticians.
“And they have also revised up their estimate of growth for 2013 from 1.7% to 2.2%.
“If these statistics are more reliable than the last lot, a particular school of Keynesian economists may choose to re-examine their contention that only a fool or a liar would say there is a legitimate debate about whether George Osborne’s policies were good or bad for the recovery.”
He responds: “This ‘particular school’ has never based their assessment on observing what is still the weakest UK recovery since anyone can remember and looking for something to blame. They based it on what macro theory and the great majority of empirical studies tell us would be the impact of the fiscal austerity that happened. At the conservative end of such assessments is the OBR, who calculate austerity reduced GDP growth by 1% in each of the financial years 2011 and 2012. Estimates of this kind are completely independent of data revisions for one period in one country. We might doubt such estimates if they implied that without austerity we would have had implausibly rapid growth, but for this recovery they do not.”
This means that it doesn’t matter how well the ONS or Mr Peston says the economy performed – the simple fact that George Osborne had imposed austerity on the UK (unnecessarily) means growth was restricted by at least one per cent in the years he mentions.
Prof Wren-Lewis goes on to point out that the UK’s growth performance – even with these revisions – is still terrible because Peston has not taken population growth due to inward migration into account: “You really have to look at GDP per head to make comparative statements about this recovery.
“As the ONS point out, this new data still shows that only in this year has GDP per head exceeded its pre-recession peak. Assuming recent data revisions have not changed this, average growth in GDP per head between 1955 and 2008 was about 2.25%. Any recovery from such a deep recession should have seen growth rates well in excess of this.
“Instead the revised data give us 1.1% growth in 2011, 0.5% in 2012, 1.5% in 2013. Only by 2014 had we got near the long term average growth rate. This is still an absolutely terrible performance for a recovery.”
Prof Wren-Lewis goes on to suggest that Peston might be saying as much himself if the Tory Government were not “breathing down the BBC’s neck”. The point that BBC political coverage is being distorted by Tory influence is a very good one, as anybody who has seen Question Time recently will know.
In fairness to Peston, he does point out that any extra economic growth did not translate into higher tax revenues for the government. Where did that money go (if it doesn’t exist only in the minds of ONS statisticians and Mr Peston)?
Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons: Her performance at PMQs this week showed very clearly the weakness of our current Prime Minister.
This Tory fiction is getting old very quickly.
Today, David Cameron spat out the current Conservative Government line about the people who have died while claiming incapacity benefits. He was responding to Debbie Abrahams, who has been a superb campaigner on the subject. Here’s her question:
“Two weeks ago, the Work and Pensions Secretary’s Department not only admitted to falsifying testimonies in leaflets, but published data on the deaths of people on sickness benefit, which showed that they are four times more likely to die than the general population. That was after the Secretary of State told the House that these data did not exist. Given that, and his offensive remarks earlier this week—referring to people without disabilities as “normal”—when will the Prime Minister take control and respond to my call for the Work and Pensions Secretary to be investigated for breaching the ministerial code?”
Everything in her question was accurate. The DWP has admitted falsifying testimonies in leaflets. The DWP’s data does show that people on incapacity benefits are four times more likely to die than the general population. Iain Duncan Smith had told MPs that this information did not even exist.
She drew no conclusions from these facts, other than that Iain Duncan Smith should be investigated for breaking the ministerial code.
So why did David Cameron go off on a tangent about “people being wrongly assessed as fit to work”? Ms Abrahams never even suggested that!
He said: “First, let me deal very directly with the publication of this data. This data was published because I promised at this Dispatch Box that it would be published, in a way that it was never published under any Labour Government. That is the first point.”
Point-less, in fact. And a lie. The data was published because the Information Commissioner had upheld my appeal against the DWP’s refusal to provide me with the information. It had nothing to do with any promises he made at the Dispatch Box.
“I also think we should be clear about what this data shows. It does not show people being wrongly assessed as fit to work. It does not show people dying as a result of their benefits being taken away.”
Pointless, again. Nobody is disputing that. It does, however, raise serious questions about whether people are being wrongly assessed as fit to work or dying as a result of their benefits being removed – questions that the DWP has failed to answer.
“If you listen to the organisation Full Fact, it has said—[Interruption.]” Whoever interrupted was quite right to do so. Nobody should pay any attention to Full Fact on this matter. As mentioned previously on This Blog, the article is drivel that is unfit for use as toilet paper.
Pressing on with his non-existent point, Cameron droned: “I have to say to [the] hon. Gentlemen shouting that two newspapers have printed that and had to retract it, so I think that people should actually look at the facts. A fact-checking organisation says: ‘It was widely reported that thousands of people died within weeks of being found ‘fit for work’ and losing their benefits. This is wrong.’ Perhaps the hon. Lady should read that before asking her next question.”
Perhaps Mr Cameron should learn the full facts about his own government’s benefit system before spouting such nonsense. The DWP’s statistical release states quite clearly that 2,380 people with a WCA decision of “fit for work” flowed off-benefit with a date of death at the same time, meaning (if one checks the small print) “those whose date of death is up to 14 days after the claim end date for ESA”. Claims are ended immediately when people are found “fit for work”, therefore these people passed away within two weeks of being found ‘fit for work’ and losing their benefits.
Or perhaps Mr Cameron is a liar.
Having taken the time to address three issues that had not even been mentioned, the Prime Minister then failed to answer the one question he had been asked.
So, when will Iain Duncan Smith be investigated for breaching the Ministerial Code?
Ignorant: Priti Patel will need to work a lot harder if she thinks she’s going to convince anybody about the Conservative Government’s appalling record of deaths among people on incapacity benefits.
The new Parliamentary session is going to be very hard on Iain Duncan Smith and his team (if you can call it that) at the Department for Work and Pensions. His skiving employment minister Priti Patel discovered this on her very first day back.
Ms Patel, who had the hypocrisy to criticise the UK’s workforce as lazy at a time when her own Parliamentary attendance record was among the lowest in the House of Commons, faced an inevitable series of questions on the government’s botched release of figures relating to the deaths of people claiming incapacity benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance – and of course messed up her answers ridiculously.
“It is wrong to state that people have died while claiming an out-of-work benefit,” she stated. Oh, really?
Didn’t the DWP do just that in its statistical releases of August 27? Among the incapacity benefits population alone, the number of deaths recorded – by the DWP – between 2003 and 2013 was 444,620… or 448,300, depending on whether you’ve accepted the DWP’s accumulated death figure or checked them by adding together the separate totals for IB/SDA and ESA. As you can tell, they don’t add up – casting doubt on the reliability of any of the figures the DWP has released.
“It is impossible and completely wrong to draw any causality from the statistics,” continued Ms Patel, tragically. “Any attempt to extrapolate anything beyond those figures is wrong.” My word, she was keen to make sure we knew what the Conservative Party thinks is wrong, wasn’t she!
What a shame for Ms Patel that she was in the wrong. While the figures themselves do not – necessarily – damn the DWP’s activities since the Tories took over, they do provide enough information to support some serious questions about Conservative Government policy and its effects on people with long-term illnesses.
If all is well in the assessment of Employment and Support Allowance claimants, then why did the DWP deliberately mislead This Writer, by falsely claiming it could not answer my Freedom of Information request on the incapacity benefit deaths because those facts were to be published in the future? In fact, the DWP was planning to publish a set of ‘Age-Standardised Mortality Rates’ – about which we’ll learn more in a moment. By using this tactic, the DWP successfully evaded answering my question for more than two years. Is this acceptable behaviour for a government department?
According to Ms Patel, when the ASMRs were finally published, they were “in line with Office for National Statistics requirements and to national statistics standard”. That’s all very well, but the ONS provides information on how to create ASMRs that means the figures published on August 27 are, at most, a single day’s work for one person at the DWP. I submitted an FoI request on May 28, 2014, meaning they were published almost one year and three months later, with no reason provided for the delay. Is this acceptable behaviour for a government department?
Ms Patel said: “Specifically with regard to the statistics, the trend is that the number of people dying, as a proportion of the population, is going down.” What clever phrasing (she no doubt thought)! That is, indeed, what the ASMR statistics show. But the population of the UK is increasing rapidly, and this affects per-head-of-population figures like ASMRs – perhaps Ms Patel should have liaised with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister before passing her comment.
The numbers paint a different story. For the sake of transparency, This Writer has been using the Work-Related Activity Group of ESA and the number of people who have died after being declared fit for work in order to demonstrate this. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of people in the WRAG increased by nine per cent. The number of deaths increased by 24 per cent – from 2,990 people to 3,720. Increased. This does not indicate a downward trend. This is in a group where the Conservative Government expects – no, demands – that people will be ready to return to work within a year. This means members of the group should have no worse life expectancy than anyone in the general population, but if you apply the death rate among the general population to the WRAG, then the number of deaths in 2012 should have been 1,037, and in 2013 the total should have been 1,132 – in both cases, that’s around one-third of the actual figure. Priti Patel wants us to think that is no reason to question whether the work capability assessment – the procedure used to decide if a person should receive ESA and whether they deserve to go into the support group for people with severe illnesses or the WRAG – is fit for purpose. What do you think?
Let’s look at the number of people who have died after being assessed as fit for work. The media – and the Conservative Government – have been using this figure of 2,380 deaths from December 2011 to February 2014 (inclusive). But those are only people who died within two weeks of having their claim stopped (on the grounds that they were fit for work)! What about people like Mark Wood, who died of starvation, several months after the DWP decided he was fit for work? What about people who were moved onto Jobseeker’s Allowance because they were told they were fit for work? Did they all find jobs and live happily ever after? This seems unlikely. How many of them were sanctioned because they could not fulfil the requirements of their Jobseekers’ Agreement’? How often? How many of them died? How many people were pushed off benefits altogether, and what happened to them? We may accept the claim that it is wrong to extrapolate anything from the figures, but isn’t that because the figures have been deliberately phrased in order to make it so?
If you disagree, take a look at This Writer’s Freedom of Information request. The part requiring the DWP to state the number of people who died after being found fit for work calls for information covering the period between December 2011 and May 2014 (inclusive), covering everybody who had been claiming ESA but died within that period. The DWP has complied with neither of those parts of the request, despite having withdrawn its appeal against answering the FoI request, and is in danger of being in contempt of court. Do you think that is acceptable behaviour for a government department?
In a later exchange, Louise Haigh MP said: “Contrary to the Minister’s earlier remarks, figures finally released by the Department over the summer showed that 2,380 people died after being declared fit for work—more than four times the death rate of the general population. In a harrowing case, a constituent of mine reported to me that she frequently considered committing suicide, both before and after being found fit for work. Does the Minister not feel that it is therefore high time to review the work capability assessment and that thousands of people are being wrongly defined as fit for work?”
In response, Ms Patel said: “Organisations have commented on this and Full Fact, which is widely known, has said that similar comments to those made by the hon. Lady, which have been widely reported, are simply wrong.”
So Ms Haigh was wrong to say that her constituent had considered suicide due to the DWP’s treatment of her? Ms Patel had no right to make such a claim; she did not have any experience of the case.
As for Full Fact, the fact that the Conservative Government was using that website’s worthless article about the death statistics to justify its behaviour speaks volumes about the relationship between the two. We may not be able to draw conclusions about causality from the DWP’s death figures, but we may certainly draw conclusions about the DWP and Full Fact, it seems. This Writer’s advice is that any further comment on this subject from that website may be dismissed.
We should not have to wait too long for that fate to claim Ms Patel, also…
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