Tag Archives: UKSA

Boris Johnson’s £350 million EU claim is still a lie, no matter how he dresses it up

Over a cliff: The Brexit bus, with all its claims of a new Golden Age for the UK, teeters on the edge. Boris Johnson, in the driver’s seat, says: “Boys? I’ve got an idea.”

It is incredible that people are still giving credence to Boris Johnson and his repetition of the lie that was painted on the side of the ‘Brexit bus’ during the run-up to the EU referendum.

As This Writer pointed out, more than a year ago, the UK never gave £350 million a week to the EU. With rebates and revenue from favourable EU trading conditions, the total value of our contributions was less than half that. Add in the money brought into the UK by the work of EU migrants and the UK is in profit by £120 million per week – nearly £6.25 billion per year – based on last year’s figures.

Even if you strip out the public and private sector receipts, the UK’s contribution doesn’t come to anything like £350 million per week.

The latest twist in the tale is Mr Johnson’s row with the head of the UK Statistics Authority, who wrote to warn him that the figure “confuses gross and net contributions” and is “a clear misuse of official statistics:

Mr Johnson has written a furious screed in response, claiming that it misrepresents what he said, which was that the UK would “take back control” of the £350 million per week, and it would be “a fine thing” if much of that money “went on the NHS”:

But, as Steve Peers points out below (and I pointed out more than a year ago), the UK already decides how to spend the rebate, so it cannot be considered “extra public spending”:

As far as This Writer is concerned, Mr Johnson was clearly either lying or stupid. In either case, his claim that his outburst was not the start of a leadership challenge against Theresa May and he remains “all behind” her can only undermine her position: She employs idiots.

The responses on Twitter have been enjoyable:



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Critics of Miliband’s speech have forgotten the magic words: ‘Check against delivery’

An idiot: Matthew Hancock thinks Ed Miliband should be censured for something he never said [Image: BBC].

An idiot: Matthew Hancock thinks Ed Miliband should be censured for something he never said [Image: BBC].

It really is staggering that the UK Statistics Authority has criticised Ed Miliband for a claim made in a draft of a speech that went out to reporters but was not, in fact, used.

Speeches – especially those made by politicians – are checked by several people, not just the author or the person delivering it (these are not necessarily the same person), and even then, the speaker can decide to omit parts or include new information in the moment.

That’s why the words “Check against delivery” appear at the top of every speech issued by political parties to the press. They protect the organisation and its speaker from exactly the sort of criticism currently directed at Mr Miliband by Andrew Dilnot of the UKSA (who should know better) and business minister Matthew Hancock (who made the complaint and therefore, clearly, does not).

Miliband took his information – a claim that four-fifths of all new private-sector jobs created since 2010 are in London – from the Centre for Cities thinktank. Both have stated that they believe the claim to be accurate.

That doesn’t have any bearing on the argument, in fact. The version of the speech received by the press makes it perfectly clear that the statistic is independently-sourced, not an official figure from the Office for National Statistics.

So not only did Mr Miliband not mention it, but there is no official figure against which to compare it. Mr Hancock, Mr Dilnot and the whiners in the news media are attacking him for something he hasn’t done – and that is the only unsurprising aspect of this story.

After all, it isn’t the first time Tories have made false accusations about the Labour Party.

They’re still trying to make us believe the financial crisis was caused by Labour, rather than bankers.

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BBC confirms ‘Tory mouthpiece’ accusation with updated lies about ESA


I have complained to the BBC and the UK Statistics Authority about this disgrace.

Today (January 25) the BBC published a scurrilous little screed claiming that “nearly a million people who applied for sickness benefit have been found fit for work”. Needless to say, the figures come from the Department for Work and Pensions and aren’t worth the time it took to type them in.

The story states: “The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013.

“More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews, it adds.”

It goes on to say that disability campaigners had stated that the work capability assessment tests were “ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair”, but says nothing about the fact that an almost-identical story was withdrawn last year after it was found to be riddled with inaccuracies – if not outright lies.

Even more bizarre is the fact that the story does provide the factual reason for claims being withdrawn. They “either returned to work, recovered or claimed a benefit “more appropriate to their situation”.

In other words, these people used the system in exactly the right way, yet the DWP – and the BBC – are pretending that they were trying to fiddle it in some way.

To explain what happened last year, let’s look at a letter from Sheila Gilmore MP to Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, and his response. You can find it on page 39 of the DPAC report on DWP abuse of statistics.

The letter from Sheila Gilmore states: “On 30 March 2013 an article by Patrick Hennessy entitled ‘900,000 choose to come off sickness benefit ahead of tests’ was published in the Sunday Telegraph. Please find a copy enclosed. I believe that the headline and the subsequent story are fundamentally misleading because they conflate two related but separate sets of statistics. I would be grateful if you could confirm that my interpretation of what has happened is correct.

“The sickness benefit in question is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). People have been able to make new claims for ESA since October 2008, but those in receipt of the benefits it replaced – Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, and Income Support on the grounds of disability – only started migrating across in April 2011.

“The article implied that many of this latter group were dropping their claim rather than having to go through a face-to-face assessment, with the implication that they were never really ill in the first place and had been ‘playing the system’.

“However I have checked the figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions and it would appear that the figure of 900,000 actually refers to all those who have made new claims for ESA since its introduction over four years ago, but who have since withdrawn their application before undergoing a face-to-face assessment. These people were not claiming the benefit before and generally drop out of the system for perfectly innocent reasons – often people become ill, apply as a precaution, but withdraw when they get better.

“Of the 600,000 people who have been migrated from Incapacity Benefit over the past two years, only 19,700 have dropped their claim. This is the figure that should have featured in the headline, but the 900,000 figure was used instead.”

Mr Dilnot replied: “Having reviewed the article and the relevant figures, we have concluded that these statements appear to conflate official statistics relating to new claimants of the ESA with official statistics on recipients of the incapacity
benefit (IB) who are being migrated across to the ESA.

“According to official statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in January 2013, a total of 603,600 recipients of IB were referred for reassessment as part of the migration across to ESA between March 2011 and May 2012. Of these, 19,700 claims were closed prior to a work capability assessment in the period to May 2012.

“The figure of “nearly 900,000” referenced in the article appears to refer to the cumulative total of 878,300 new claims for the ESA (i.e. not pre-existing IB recipients) which were closed before undergoing assessment in the period from October 2008 to May 2012.

“In your letter, you also expressed concern about the apparent implication in the Sunday Telegraph article that claims for ESA had been dropped because the individuals were never really ill in the first place. The statistical release does not address the issue of why cases were closed in great depth, but it does point to research undertaken by DWP which suggests that ‘an important reason why ESA claims in this sample were withdrawn or closed before they were fully assessed was because the person recovered and either returned to work, or claimed a benefit more appropriate to their situation’.”

What he was saying, in his officialese way, was that the Conservatives had wrongly ‘conflated’ monthly figures into a cumulative total; they had misled the press about the figures’ significance; and the press release (which then mysteriously disappeared) ignored a clear caveat in the DWP’s own report that the reason the claims were dropped each month had nothing to do with fear of medical assessment but were because people recovered and went back to work, or else were switched to another benefit deemed more suitable to their circumstances.

Now the BBC has resurrected this story, with brand new, larger numbers that add in the totals for 2013 without telling you whether these were all new claims, or repeat claims, or a mixture; they are all treated as new.

The claim that 980,400 people had been found fit for work after medical tests – the feared Atos work capability assessments – is also extremely questionable – as the BBC well knows.

Its own Panorama programme, ‘Disabled or Faking It?’, investigated whether the DWP was knocking people off-benefit in order to hit financial targets – in essence, making people destitute in order to show a budget saving. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, ‘Britain on the Sick’, proved that this was happening. Both were shown at the end of July 2012.

I have complained to the BBC and to Mr Dilnot about the deeply offensive and defamatory way in which these lies have been resurrected, in order to encourage the general public to hold people who are genuinely ill in hatred, ridicule and contempt. If you believe this cause is just, go thou and do likewise.

This behaviour is even more appalling when one considers the rise and rise of hate crime against the sick and disabled.

Members of groups such as DPAC or Black Triangle may even wish to take libel action against the corporation and the DWP on the basis of this report.

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‘Moaning’ Work and Pensions committee lets IDS ‘off the hook’


It is said that you can get the measure of a man, not from his words, but from his actions. Iain Duncan Smith brought bodyguards to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee yesterday. (Monday)

Why did he need the muscle? Probably because he knew how his behaviour would be received. This is a man who is absolutely not going to accept criticism, in any form at all.

The man whose benefit reforms were mocked by Ed Balls last week as “In Deep Sh…ambles” batted away concerns about inaccurate statistics as somebody else’s fault and, when confronted with a whistleblower’s claim that jobseekers were being sanctioned indiscriminately, said he wanted to see the evidence.

That’s a bit much, coming from the man who is still withholding the mortality statistics of people going through the assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance. Where is that evidence?

Our evidence that he had a bodyguard comes from Paula Peters on Facebook, who attended the meeting. She wrote: “The police, and they were armed, hustled him into the room. He had a bodyguard in the room with him! What the hell for? We are entitled to watch proceedings and follow due process.”

Dame Anne Begg, chairing the meeting, pointed out that the UK Statistics Authority has received more complaints about the Department of Work and Pensions’ use of statistics than any other government department.

His response: “Yes, but I’ve had two letters. One was about two years ago, concerning something about the use of them on immigration, but they let that one sit – and the last one was where we had a discussion on the use of where I referred to those going back to work on the back of the benefit cap. They said that … I should not make the link. I believed it to be the case – that those people were going back to work due to the fact of reducing the cap; that’s my belief. They said it should not remain as a flat statistic, which we’ve accepted.”

So in that one respect, he admitted that he was wrong.

But he also said: “We have published, over the period that I have been there, over 500 statistical releases. We’ve also started the innovation of ‘ad hoc’ releases – which, actually, we were congratulated for by UKSA… We try and publish as regularly as possible… We try to sell a positive message, and I know there have been issues around negativity with regard to disability benefits.”

Pressed on the fact that Grant Shapps had claimed nearly 900,000 people shuffled off ESA because they weren’t willing to take the work capability assessment, the Secretary of State denied responsibility: “We didn’t actually – and have never – given them that idea about those figures. It was something that they put together and released themselves. I wasn’t even aware that they were going out with that comment at the time… I have had conversations with him and others about being careful to check with the department.”

Committee member Debbie Abrahams wanted to know about the claim by a whistleblower in Job Centre Plus, that JSA claimants were deliberately being set up to fail, contrary to the Civil Service code, with ploys including making appointments without telling the claimant, in order to create an easy opportunity for a sanction and thereby distorting statistics – not after they had been collected but in the collection itself.

She said the whistleblower had tried to raise the issue with managers at all levels, but had been rebuffed each time.

“Well, I’m not aware of that,” drawled Mr Duncan Smith, “and I have to say that I would like to see his evidence for that. With respect, he is making an allegation about some of the incredibly hard work that job advisors do. There’s always one or two people who have a different view about operating in an organisation. I happen to believe that, unless it is proved to the contrary, people in Job Centres do a very good job, work very hard, and they apply sanctions within the rules.”

Challenged on this by Dame Anne, he started to claim that sanctions are always issued because of failure to comply with the strictures imposed on claimants, provoking an interruption from Debbie Abrahams that caused his mask to slip momentarily. “I have listened a lot to what has been said – and moaning about this… You’ve had a fair crack at this.”

So there you have it. Statistical errors are nothing to do with Iain Duncan Smith. Sanctions are always applied fairly and never to distort the statistics.

And anyone who thinks otherwise is “moaning”.

Paula Peters, in her Facebook post, said that disability minister Mike Penning met people from organisations representing the disabled. She reported his words as follows:

“Our disabilities are our fault.

“Diabetes is a lifestyle choice.

“Everyone who claims benefits is frauding the system.

“Everyone who uses the access to work programme is frauding it.”

The public verdict on the meeting has been universally negative. Nicola Clubb (again on Facebook) summed it up well: “I have just watched an hour’s worth of IDS and the DWP evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee and they let him and his three cronies off the hook.

“They did not push him him to explain his use of dodgy stats, they just asked him about a couple of pieces of data released by people.”

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Work Programme year two result: FAIL


The government’s flagship Work Programme has failed to reach its own minimum standard of results – for the second year running.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 13 per cent of jobseekers had managed to find work lasting at least six months (three months for the hardest to help) – but targets for the second year were higher than the first and the DWP admitted that the Work Programme has failed to meet them.

Of the 1.02 million who have been on the programme long enough to count in today’s figures, 132,000 people found work lasting long enough to be counted a success according to its (low) standards. Six months in work is not a long-term job.

This totals 13.4 per cent. Broken down into particular payment groups, Work Programme providers got 31.9 per cent of JSA claimants aged 18-24 into sustained work against a contracted level of 33 per cent – so that is a fail. For JSA claimants aged 25 or over, they averaged 27.3 per cent against a contracted level of 27.5 per cent – so that is also a fail.

We should concede that this is a big improvement from the first year, when no provider reached their contracted level of 5.5 per cent for either group.

But 31.9 per cent and 27.3 per cent creates a combined average of 29.6 per cent, so you’re probably wondering why the Work Programme’s actual average is 13.4 per cent.

Part of this has to do with the total for people on Employment and Support Allowance. The achievement for ESA new customers was just 5.3 per cent, against a target of 16.5 per cent – and is therefore a bitter fail.

This still does not create a combined figure of 13.4 per cent but I am momentarily at a loss to find any other figures to account for it in the statistical release or the DWP’s press release.

This – the press release – is a piece of comedy rather than information, as we have come to expect from the Department of Wayward Pronoouncements.

It makes no mention of the abject failure to meet ESA targets but states: “Compared to many employment schemes under previous governments, the programme targets the hardest to help into work, such as those claiming Employment and Support Allowance.”

That’s a shot in the foot right there, because it immediately sent me looking for the relevant – and damning – figures.

The omission here, coupled with the recent BBC news report in which WP providers got their begging bowls out and demanded more cash to help ESA claimants into work, creates a bleak picture for sick and disabled people who are being forced to seek employment and reinforces the position set out in a previous Vox Political article that these are people who are too ill to work and should not be forced to seek it.

It’s a lose-lose scenario: The Work Programme providers will fail to hit their targets and the ESA recipients’ health will suffer.

And we all know that the DWP is hiding the figures showing how many ESA recipients are dying every week as a result of participation in its brutal assessment process and silly work placement schemes.

Employment minister Mark Hoban, commenting on the programme’s failure to meet its contracted targets, said: “The Work Programme is helping large numbers of people escape the misery of long-term unemployment and get back into real jobs. The improvement in performance over the past year has been profound and the scheme is getting better and better.”

So we know that he’s living in a fantasy world.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that 18 out of the 40 Work Programme providers have met or exceeded their targets. Unfortunately we don’t know how they managed this; considering some of the horror stories that have come from the schemes, it seems a miracle that anyone got a job at all.

Oh, and there’s a sideswipe at commenters like Vox Political. The statistical summary states: “Many commentators on the previous statistical release looked to compare total job outcome payments with total referrals in the period covered by that publication (June 2011 to July 2012) and assess this against a minimum benchmark.

“Incorrectly the media calculated 3.5 per cent (using data covered by full release period) and 2.3 per cent (using data from June 2011 to May 2012) as the relevant figure to compare against the 5.5 per cent benchmark. The contractual benchmark is measured each financial year for three specific groups of Participants only.”

The press release states that – for once – the DWP has an endorsement from the UK Statistics Authority: “The UK Statistics Authority has said that it does not regard the calculation by commentators that 3.5% of people got into work in the first year of the scheme is the most relevant figure on which to assess performance.

“It agrees with the DWP that performance is better measured by counting how many people referred to the Work Programme get into sustained employment within a year of being referred to the scheme.”

That’s very nice. It would have been even nicer to have been provided with the correct figure at the time. I remember wondering why vital information had been omitted from the releases provided to us, forcing us to make the best calculations we could with what was available.

If the DWP wants to play silly games with the figures, its people have no right to come crying to the rest of us, just because we have tried to fill the gap.

To summarise: The Work Programme has failed to hit targets in its second year, with the results being particularly disastrous for the sick and disabled.

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