The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

Sarah's story: Turned out to be fiction rather than fact

Sarah’s story: Turned out to be fiction rather than fact

In 2015, Welfare Weekly exposed the Department for Work and Pensions for using fake testimonies from fake characters via a well-placed freedom of information (FoI) request, revealing that the lengths that the government is prepared to go to justify extremely punitive policies. Remarkably, even the 
Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)  were alarmed at the level of deception, and said it had written to all of its members who work at the Department to find out whether they had played any part in putting the leaflet together. 

Sarah Pinch, the CIPR’s president, said: “Falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support is a naive and opaque technique which blatantly disregards the CIPR’s standards of ethical conduct. It is deeply disappointing if public relations professionals allowed it to be published.” 

This happened during the same month that the it was only this month that the UK statistics watchdog censured the DWP for understating the scale” of its sanctions regime – essentially failing to release adequate data to give jobseekers or the public a genuine picture of the way it’s imposing sanctions, and of monitoring the real impact of this draconian policy. The revelation that the DWP has faked information to distort the reality that so many citizens face is reflective of how deep the rot is in the entire system. 

Then there are the fictional statistics. Iain Duncan Smith was rebuked by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the ‘misuse’ of benefit statistics  his claim that 8,000 people moved into work as a result of the benefit cap is “unsupported by the official statistics”, says the UK Statistics Authority. 

In letter to Duncan Smith, Andrew Dilnot writes: “In the manner and form published, the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice, particularly in respect of accessibility to the sources of data, information about the methodology and quality of the statistics, and the suggestion that the statistics were shared with the media in advance of their publication.”

Another claim by Duncan Smith later in the same month also drew criticism and a reprimand. The (then) minister said around 1 million people have been stuck on benefits for at least three of the last four years “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”.

However, the figures cited also included single mothers, people who were seriously ill, and people awaiting testing. Grant Shapps was also rebuked by UK Statistics Authority for misrepresenting benefit figures the Tory chairman claimed that “nearly a million people” (878,300) on incapacity benefit had dropped their claims, rather than face a new medical assessment for its successor, the employment and support allowance.

The figures, he claimed, “demonstrate how the welfare system was broken under Labour and why our reforms are so important”. The claim was faithfully reported by the Sunday Telegraph  but as the UK Statistics Authority confirmed in its response to Labour MP Sheila Gilmore, it was entirely fabricated.

In his letter to Shapps and Duncan Smith, UKSA chair Andrew Dilnot wrote that the figure conflated “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”. Of the 603,600 incapacity benefit claimants referred for reassessment as part of the introduction of the ESA between March 2011 and May 2012, just 19,700 (somewhat short of Shapps’s “nearly a million) abandoned their claims prior to a work capability assessment in the period to May 2012. 

The figure of 878,300 refers to the total of new claims for the ESA closed before medical assessment from October 2008 to May 2012. Thus, Shapps’s suggestion that the 878,300 were pre-existing claimants, who would rather lose their benefits than be exposed as “scroungers”, was entirely wrong. Significantly, there is no evidence that those who abandoned their claims did so for the reasons ascribed by Shapps.

Now the DWP have been found out submitting fake claims to the Work and Pensions Committee. The DWP claimed the Institute for Fiscal Stdies (IFS) had reviewed its data which asserts that UC will help more than 250,000 people into employment, once the flagship welfare reform is fully implemented across the UK. However the IFS have contradicted the claim, leading to heavy criticism regarding the DWP’s statement and ‘evidence’ regarding Universal Credit’s ‘causal relatonship’ with employment. 

The Committee says:

“A central part of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) case for the benefit of Universal Credit (UC) is their assertion of its effect on employment. In to a request for an estimate of the magnitude of that effect, DWP stated it has “determined” that UC will result in 250,000 more people in employment once it is fully implemented.

How the Department ‘arrived’ at these figures

In a follow up letter to Employment Minister Alok Sharma (PDF PDF 1.38 MB)Opens in a new window the Chair asked a set of specific questions about how the Department had arrived at each of the stated constituent parts of that figure:

  • 150,000 more due to “increased financial incentives to work” 
  • 50,000 more due to “increased conditionality”
  • 60,000 due to “simplification of the benefit system”

(That’s basically euphemisms for cuts, sanctions, and more cuts and sanctions)

The Department’s response (PDF PDF 800 KB)Opens in a new window did not answer any of the Chair’s specific questions, although it did supply an account of academic research papers that have informed the Department’s work on UC, and restated the principles underlying those three ostensible benefits of the reform.

DWP concluded by stating: “The approach to our analysis underpinning these estimates was reviewed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Accordingly, the Committee wrote to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) (PDF PDF 141 KB)Opens in a new window asking if, in that review, it had found those three estimates reasonable, and what the margin of statistical error might be on the numbers.

The IFS’ reply (PDF PDF 197 KB)Opens in a new window starts out “clarifying the role we had in reviewing DWP’s approach” in coming up with the numbers:

Note that at no stage did we review their approach to estimating the impact of increased conditionality or simplification, to which they attribute 50,000 and 60,000 respectively of the overall 250,000 forecast effect on employment”.

The employment impact of Universal Credit is highly uncertain

The IFS goes on to say: “Neil Couling’s letter to Baroness Hollis on 16 November states that the 250,000 figure is based on the same methodology we reviewed in 2012. For the reasons given above, that can only be true of the element (150,000) which is a result of changes to financial incentives. And we are not in a position to confirm whether and to what extent DWP took on board our comments and implemented our recommended improvements before applying the methodology….”

The employment impact of UC is highly uncertain. The move to UC involves a number of changes for which it is hard to find comparable precedents (especially UK precedents)” — casting doubt on DWP’s use of academic evidence to substantiate its estimates — “It is not even possible to produce statistical margins of error for estimates of the employment impact, as the nature of the uncertainty is not conducive to standard statistical analysis…”

Sadly, it will be difficult even after the event to produce convincing estimates of the overall employment impact of UC. The early impact estimates that DWP have published – cited in the Minister’s letter of 12 March – apply only to a small group of claimants who are not affected by UC in the same way as most other claimants […]” and;

“We emphasise that the overall employment impact of UC will conceal very different effects for different groups in the population, with employment rates likely to rise for some and fall for others.”

The last point contradicts what DWP have previously told the Committee when asked about the impact on other groups:

“We remain committed to producing robust comparative analysis of the employment impacts of Universal Credit. As we informed the Committee we are planning to expand the analysis for single cases in the Live Service to couples and families in both services.

This analysis will estimate a labout market impact for these broader claimant groups. In this instance it is misleading to draw a distinction between two services. The underlying policy for both is the same so any comparative analysis will hold true for both systems”.

Lack of evidence

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The ongoing lack of evidence to back up the much-vaunted employment impact of Universal Credit was already extremely disappointing. But to have our specific queries about basis of this claim answered with airy, irrelevant and, it appears, plainly inaccurate assertions adds insult to injury.

The IFS’ letter shows that Old Mother Hubbard hasn’t got much in the cupboard, despite the bragging of the Department. This clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback on one of the most trusted, unimpugnable authorities on public policy and finance would be farcical if it was not so deeply worrying.”

Call it what it is, Frank. It’s just more glib, ideologically driven lies

Image result for Universal credit criticism

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25 thoughts on “The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

  1. As a pensioner on low income I was quite surprised to receive a letter from the local council informing me that I had been receiving too much housing benefit for the past ten years! (This was during the reign of Cameron and Duncan Smith and I was living in Worcester at the time.)
    I contacted the local authority and asked for the origin of the figures. The lady was quite helpful and told me they were from the DWP. She told me this in a tone that suggested they could not possibly be wrong. I asked if I could have a copy of the figures and she agreed. I checked the figures against my bank statements, something that took me all day. The conclusion I arrived at was that around two thirds of the DWP’s figures were false – made-up – not on my bank statements.
    I could not see any way that I alone could fight the DWP and so I started a series of payments to the council. Shortly after this time we moved to an address in Birmingham and the same thing happened again. Birmingham council are not helpful to anyone and I thought I’d have some fun. I asked for the figures and was told I couldn’t have them. I then submitted an FOI request that was ignored. It appears that neither Birmingham council or the DWP were bothered by the threat of contempt of court.
    In addition I found myself for the first time paying tax, with no increase in income, at the start of the Cameron era quite the opposite to the propaganda spouted by the Tories.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Universal credit is a disaster area – even the people who headed its implementation were victims of it, one died in harness, the other left due to stress.

    It is a nasty, sanction based system, the staff in it are largely useless, there is no management structure to deal with claims or when things go wrong in my experience, the data protection act is flouted when legitimate request for information is made, phone calls on then premium rate lines were ended by staff without good reason, staff are told NOT to offer to write to claimants, you can never speak to the same person twice, and so on.

    What it is not doing is doing something towards the day in 2030 when 800 million jobs will have been lost to automation. That is an estimate by a recognised authority on the subject. With 7 billion in the world, do the math, the 18 – 65’s in that 7 billion are maybe 4.5 billion max, losing almost a billion jobs from that is going to be difficult to manage.

    This is why basic income payments must be brought in.


  3. For the attention of Sue Biedla
    Investigation Case Manager – Independent Case Examiner
    Ref No: CPM 00190/16

    The first priority of the DWP is to get claimants off benefits and into work – not to keep claimants waiting 2.5 years before they start benefits.
    My claim for Employment Support Allowance was made to gain employment and continue the contact with my sons.
    From the outset I was told “I have no responsibility to my sons and I should stop the family maintenance” of £ 120.00 per week. This I agreed to on the basis I recieved the medical assessment within 13 weeks.
    Late September / Early October, 2015, the DWP made investigations into my sons’ investments making the assumptions they were meeting solicitors at the age of 16 & 17.
    My sons’ childhood is filled with happiness and there is no need for them to see solicitors!
    Further demands were made of my sons “to sell their property”
    Taking these assets out of the equation disallowed me work-related benefits AND IN THE WORDS OF THE HCP
    The HCP’s “trick” question did not work – if I said I still had incontinence problems – it does not mean I am taking medication regularly.
    Stopping the family maintenance payments resulted in me only seeing my sons 10 ten times from the start of my application.
    Under the terms of the Trust, I am not allowed to use the boys’ money and should I wish to sell the property, I need the permission of the Co-Trustee – THE BOYS MOTHER!
    The DWP would have known this when they “searched” the Land Registry and the deeds to 87 Sydney Street, Boston.
    These actions are against the law and morally wrong. The DWP are also wrong in “dragging” these facts up against me.
    The failure to gain employment rests with the DWP – in 2015 – to compound these problems by instructing my sons to finance me is the stupidity of the system.

    I ask again – why stop family maintenance payments of £ 120.00 per week to gain £ 109.00 in benefits.
    Why sell a house that does not belong to me, when I have an outstanding mortgage with the property I live in.
    Why would I re-submit my application, claiming depression, when I have no history?
    Why should my sons finance me, when they have no money themselves?

    Finally, I would suggest everybody should listen to the recording of my telephone conversation made on the 19th April, 2016 – important factors which could have avoided the involvement of the judiciary.
    Yours Sincerely,

    Parliamentary and Health Service – Ombudsman
    Ref No: C2002725 December, 2016.


    1. I’m not sure if you can edit your comment, if note hopefully Ms Jones can.

      It’s unwise to post your full address and mobile number in a comment on a blog (or anywhere online for that matter)


  4. That’s wonderful, Kitty,

    Wish the DWP were that efficient – they’re still debating my bowel movements – after three years!
    No mention of post stroke fatigue, partial sight or my intentions to move closer to my sons – all known to the local M.P. 5 months before the Medical Assessment and the reasons I took early-retirement, December, 2012.

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person


    At the time of my application, March, 2015, my entitlements were to gain employment or to be placed into the “Support Group” – due to my share in a second property and certain medical conditions I was not allowed in the “Work-Related Group”
    It took the DWP, 6 months and the CHDA, 11 months to disallow the “Work-Related Group”
    At no point did the DWP or the CHDA provide any evidence to ALLOW OR DISALLOW my entitlements for employment or the “Support Group”
    Both the DWP and CHDA were given ample opportunities to adjust their evidence, but due to their sanctimonious attitudes – never question the system – they have both wasted the Courts time.

    Please find attached letter given to the DWP and the CHDA, months before the 2nd and final hearing of the 15th August, 2017 ( gaining “Support Group” status) and further, “NOTES”



    1. For your information, the Director of Universal Credit has ‘moved on’ – she was handling a complaint I have had running since July 2016 and these matters have not been resolved.



    In light of recent demands from the bank and credit-card company – regarding “payment arrangements”. May I please request your urgent attention to resolve your investigations.
    Would you please note, it is four years since I registered for the “Repairs and Renewal Grant” with Boston Borough Council and three years with the Department for Work & Pensions to gain employment.
    It was never my intention to claim benefits – “Why should I, when I have assets to sell”
    Unfortunately, the DWP wanted me to dispose of assets, I had no control over and “backlogs” with the DWP / CHDA and the BBC overlapped.
    To ease the pressure – obtaining employment seemed the sensible answer – at the start of 2015.
    I was not able to place my home on the market, until the “Repairs and Renewal Grant” were completed – October, 2015.
    At the same time, the DWP informed me I was not entitled to any benefits with ESA
    Not to be defeated, e-mails were sent to the local M.P., Mr. Matt Warman and Dr. David Mangion, soon after:
    “I need to sell my home, before I am made bankrupt”
    Enquires were made at the Boston Jobcentre and the Cheltenham branch during the Christmas Holidays of 2015, to seek employment.
    It is very regrettable “nobody talks – anymore”:
    First I had the sub-contractor NOT informing the BBC of specifications required for planning permission. Then the DWP / CHDA with their long delays and no reasonable excuses and when forced to make a decision, the facts were distorted or omitted – which delayed the progress even further.
    The “system” will never work, unless the DWP / CHDA declines from giving “standard” replies, which are selective in their content; conflicting in themselves; irrelevant to the case in question and are insulting to the professional / intelligent people who have taken their valuable time out to make their diagnosis / verdict, before and after.
    Due to the lies, false statements and incorrect assumptions greater resentment and confusion is created and my family is financially poorer.
    In conclusion, I hope I have demonstrated, although in some cases illegal and morally wrong the instructions made by the DWP and CHDA were taken in good faith. However, the problem remains the same – I need to sell my home before I am made bankrupt – and the settlement of the outstanding mortgage is getting closer – October, 2019.
    In short, after three years, I am still waiting for the “help and support” the Department of Work and Pensions promised.

    Yours Sincerely,



    For the attention of Lindsay Tickle
    Head of ESA Mainstream Operations

    Dear Lindsay

    Does it really need the Independent Case Examiner to explain the “system” to you?

    – The Head of ESA Mainstream Operations


    Department for Work & Pensions
    Wolverhampton WV99 2GP

    For the attention of J Hatfield J Hopkins – Manager

    REF: xxxxxxxxxxxx
    Thank you for your letters dated 14th & 29th March, 2018. (Copies attached).
    To clarify the position regarding my pensions, I would confirm:
    The Pension Reference LA95584 is fixed and the amount of £323.16 per month will remain the same, until death.
    Pension Reference S9001 is £ 20.32 at the moment, but annual increase is due next month.
    Copies of P60’s will be sent, once I have received them, along with any revised amounts.
    To make threats my benefits will be stopped does not apply – I am in the Support Group. My finances are now irrelevant.
    I appreciate the rules and regulations do not mean anything to the Department for Work & Pensions, but I was disqualified from the Work-Related benefits October, 2015.
    It was pointless of the CHDA and the DWP to disallow Work-Related entitlements at the Medical Assessment and the Mandatory Reconsideration stages – February and March, 2016.
    To make recommendations to the Appeal Hearings, that I should be placed in the Work-Related Group, is complete and utter madness.
    I still maintain, any Court Action could have been avoided if my requests of the 19th April, 2016 were implemented.
    Why should I defend myself in a Court of Law, when all the mistakes rest with the DWP / CHDA, 15th August, 2017?
    I was placed in the Support Group, because of my medical conditions, omitted from the HCP Report and not checked by the DWP.
    In addition, I have failed two P.I.P Assessments.
    Debts were/are greater than assets and expenditure greater than income – hence, the need for employment – THREE YEARS AGO.
    Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
    Yours Sincerely,

    Maurice C Spencer


  8. The “Achievements” of the DWP and CHDA

    13th March, 2015
    Application for Medical Assessment

    15th August, 2015
    All benefits stopped

    27th February, 2016
    1st Medical Assessment

    15th August, 2017
    Appeal Tribunal recommends “Support Group”

    15th August, 2018
    DWP & CHDA fails to accept reasons given by
    Appeal Tribunal?

    15th August, 2019
    2nd Medical Assessment?


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