IDS Fu*ks up the stats….AGAIN!

Reposted from Nick @mylegalforum

Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore MP today welcomed a letter from the UK Statistics Authority that described figures published by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department as ‘potentially misleading’ and questioned their status as ‘National Statistics’.

The figures relate to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the benefit which provides support  for people who cannot work due to a health condition or disability. Since it replaced Incapacity Benefit in 2008, data from the Department for Work and Pensions has shown that, of all claimants declared as ‘Fit for Work’, one in ten are subsequently awarded ESA after a formal appeal.

However research by campaigners suggested that the number of Fit for Work decisions and successful appeals have been artificially suppressed. This is because figures that supposedly showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals actually already took into account the results of informal appealsagainst refusals.

Sheila Gilmore raised practice with the UK Statistics Authority in a letter dated 20 December, and this was subsequently acknowledged in a response from the Chair, Sir Andrew Dilnot, on Friday 21 February.

Sheila Gilmore said:

I regularly meet sick and disabled people who are unable to work but who have been declared fit to do so following a flawed ESA assessment.

Until recently we thought that the assessment was getting about one in ten fit for work decisions wrong – far too many in most people’s eyes – but now we know the Government have been fiddling the figures, the reality could be much much worse.

Ministers had led us to believe they were publishing figures that showed the number of people awarded benefit immediately after assessment and before ANY appeals. It now turns out that informal appeals to officials – as opposed to formal ones to judges – were being included in the figures.

Now that the UK Statistics Authority have described these figures as ‘potentially misleading’ and questioned their status as ‘National Statistics’, Iain Duncan Smith should now get on with fixing the test to reduce the number of incorrect decisions, rather than fixing the figures to downplay the problem.

Sheila Gilmore paid tribute to campaigners who brought this issue to her attention:

I want to pay special tribute to the campaigners who brought this issue to my attention. Nick Dilworth from the ilegal network deserves particular credit.

Notes to Editors:

  • Sheila Gilmore’s letter to the UK Statistics Authority dated 20 December 2013 can be found here: www.sheilagilmore.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/GILM0200202131962020019942.pdf
  • The reply from Sir Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, dated 21 February 2014 can be found here: www.sheilagilmore.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/images-letterfromsirandrewdilnottosheilagilmoremp2102201_tcm97-43651.pdf
  • The key section reads (emphasis added): ‘We have concluded that the title of Table 1a in the quarterly statistical release Employment and Support Allowance: outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, Great Britain is potentially misleading, as you suggest, and we will be asking DWP statisticians to consider an alternative labelling so as to correct this and to alert users to this issue. The Authority will review compliance with this request as part of following up on our recent statutory assessment of these statistics, and this will therefore inform in part our consequent decision as to whether to confirm the designation of this set of statistics as ‘National Statistics’.’
  • This ESA informal appeal process is known as ‘reconsideration’, and involves people who have been found ‘Fit for Work’ asking DWP civil servants to look at their cases again. If the decision remains the same then claimants can lodge a formal appeal with HM Courts and Tribunal Service, and separate statistics have previously been published on the number of people on ESA following this further stage.
  • For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.
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