Press release: Iain Duncan Smith’s department slammed again for use of statistics

Reposted from Sheila Gilmores website


Posted on March 6, 2014
  • Department for Work and Pensions official failed to follow procedure in quoting unpublished data on Work Programme
  • Latest in chain of ‘statistical foul play’ by Iain Duncan Smith’s department

Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore has today revealed another letter from the UK Statistics Authority criticising the use of statistics by Ministers and officials at the Department for Work and Pensions.

In evidence to the DWP Select Committee on 20 November 2013, senior civil servant Neil Couling attempted to defend the Work Programme by quoting data that was not publically available at the time. Sheila Gilmore subsequently questioned this practice in a letter to the UK Statistics Authority on 21 January 2014.

In his reply of 21 February, UKSA Chair Sir Andrew Dilnot said that ‘published official statistics should be referred to in public statements’ and that alternative information should be used only in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and with proper explanation and the approval of the departmental Head of Profession for Statistics.

Sir Andrew went on to say (emphasis added):

On this occasion, no DWP analyst was involved in compiling or checking the information in respect of the number people completing two years on the Work Programme. DWP also confirmed that the advice of the Head of Profession for statistics was not sought or given on the Management Information contained in the answer given to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. It is a matter of regret that DWP’s usual practice, which would have ensured compliance with the National Statistician’s guidance, was not followed.

Sheila Gilmore MP said:

By quoting data that wasn’t publicly available at the time, DWP official Neil Couling made it impossible for my colleagues and I on the Work and Pensions Committee to hold him – and the Ministers to whom he reports – to account. This bad practice must not happen again.

Sheila Gilmore went on to say:

This is just the latest statistical foul play from Iain Duncan Smith’s department that I’ve helped to expose over the past year.

Earlier this month the UK Statistics Authority described data on sickness and disability benefit ESA as ‘potentially misleading’ and questioned its status as a ‘National Statistic’.

Following delays in producing this same data last year, the watchdog censured DWP in December for failing to fully explain problems they were experiencing and not drawing them to people’s attention sooner.

And last May Sir Andrew Dilnot rebuked Tory Chairman Grant Shapps after he mistakenly suggested 900,000 ESA applicants had dropped their claim rather than go through a ‘fit for work’ test – the real figure was a mere 19,700.

Taken together, these examples shows that Iain Duncan Smith and the Tories are more interested in generating policy-based evidence, than using evidence to guide policy.


Notes to Editors:

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