Posts Tagged ‘job shirker’

Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman & Minister without Portfolio

Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman & Minister without Portfolio

Newspapers are full of numbers, particularly upmarket ones, and numbers in an article are just like words in that they are there to convey information. However unlike words we tend not to ask ourselves what numbers mean, or to question if they are correct. In March this year, the Daily Telegraph faithfully reported figures from a Conservative party press release, that claimed ‘nearly a million people’ have come off incapacity benefit rather than face new medical tests for what is now called the Employment & Support allowance (ESA). The figure in the press release was actually 873,000, still a very large number nevertheless.

The article quoted the party chairman, Grant Shapps, as saying that the figure was a vindication of the government’s stricter policies on benefit claimants, and a demonstration of how the ‘welfare system was broken under Labour’. Readers were led to suppose that this showed the scale of malingering before the coalition put a stop to it. And before long, other like-minded newspapers took up the call, in their efforts to convince voters that the government was on the side of ‘hard-working families’ and was cracking down on vast numbers of ‘job shirkers’ and ‘benefit scroungers’.

Andrew Dilnot, Chair of UK Statistics Authority

Andrew Dilnot, Chair of UK Statistics Authority

But the big number was a lie, there is no other word for it. And the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Andrew Dilnot, had to reprimand ministers, though in polite Whitehall language, about their misuse of statistics. The 873,000 alleged malingerers had never received incapacity benefit. They were new claimants, aggregated over three and a half years. Many withdrew their claim because they recovered from their condition or found a job. In 2011-12, out of 603,600 established benefit claimants referred for new medical tests, just 19,700, that is 3.3%, withdrew their claim before taking them. That figure, which most people would think small, represented the true scale of people pretending to be sick.

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