Tag: #ONS

Housing Secretary admits government policies may have contributed to rising homelessness

brokenshire

The government spend a lot of time denying that their welfare policies have any harmful consequences on citizens’ lives. However, an outspoken Conservative minister has remarkably all but admitted that policy choices by the Conservatives  are at least partly responsible for record levels of homelessness and rough sleeping, particularly those policies related to Housing Benefit. 

The Housing Secretary, James Brokenshire (pictured above), has admitted that policies may have “played a role” in rising levels of homelessness. He made the confession in an interview published on the Politico website on Christmas Eve, in an apparent U-turn on his previous comments, in which he insisted that austerity is not to blame for the current homelessness epidemic.

In an interview with the Guardian, Brokenshire had previously dismissed claims that government policies, including cuts to social security benefits, are fueling the rise in the numbers of households who are subjected to eviction orders and extreme poverty.

But in his latest interview, Brokenshire accepted that the UK government “need to ask ourselves some very hard questions” about policy choices and how those choices have impacted on some of the poorest members of society.

This apparent rethink follows the tragic death of rough sleeper Gyula Remes, who collapsed and died just yards from the Houses of Parliament, prompting a Labour MP to tweet: “There is something rotten in Westminster when MPs walk past dying homeless people on their way to work.”

Brokenshire had previously argued that record levels of homelessness seen in the last five years are a result of a “combination of concerning elements in terms of addiction, family breakdown issues”. 

Generally, government ministers respond to legitimate concerns raised regarding  the harmful consequences of their programme of social security cuts by either blaming those affected; citing some assumed personal failing or character deficit, circumstantial events or attitudinal barriers, or they accuse those voicing concerns and citing case examples of negative policy impacts as “scaremongers”.  

Yet the government’s own data shows that since 2014, the loss of a private tenancy has been the biggest cause of homelessness in England. According to research by Generation Rent, 94% of this rise can be blamed on ‘no-fault evictions’, which have more than doubled since 2010. The precariousness of private sector tenancies, combined with a chronic shortage of social housing, punitive welfare reforms and successive years of cuts to homelessness prevention services, have created a ‘perfect storm.’ 

When asked by Politico, however, if Government policies have attributed to rising levels of homelessness, Brokenshire admitted: “We do have to look and reflect on ourselves as to the increase.

“Yes there are other factors that are relevant here, but we have to look at the policy.”

We have to ask ourselves “some very hard questions … for example in relation to the introduction of changes to welfare”, he added, and also “whether we’ve done enough [to mitigate the damages].”

Although Brokenshire has appeared to shrug off any suggestion that government policies since 2010 might be to blame, on the Today programme over the Christmas holidays, former Chancellor George Osborne went much further and insisted austerity – which included brutal cuts to welfare payments, local authority budgets, public health spending, the police, other public services and the ministry of justice – has played no part whatsoever.

In the exclusive interview with Politico, Brokenshire says: “The death of 43-year-old Gyula Remes came as a shock in Westminster, where workers have got used to walking past up to half a dozen homeless people every day.

“It’s a stark reminder that what we’re talking about is individual lives.”

Brokenshire added: “I share the feelings that everybody has, of shock and distress in knowing this individual had lost his life.”

He is reluctant to comment on the specific case – a Westminster Council review is underway  – but insists that accommodation had previously been offered to all the people sleeping rough.

“There’d been a lot of help and support offered. Offers of accommodation had been made. Some people had taken them up … [But] it’s a fact that in a number of cases, the roof over the head may well be there but for a number of reasons the rough sleeper may not be willing to take up that help.

“It is certainly not from my perspective saying they are somehow to blame, as some have tried to portray this as — that is profoundly not what I am saying. It’s about compassion and support … It’s complicated because of some of the real challenges of mental health and addiction.”

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

The first ever official figures on the number of homeless people who have tragically died were recently published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures reveal that nearly 600 homeless people died in 2017, with more than half of those deaths attributed to alcohol, drug abuse, or suicide. 

Ben Humberstone, head of health analysis at the ONS, said: “What’s striking about these figures is how different they are to the general population – 55% of the deaths of homeless people are related to drugs, suicide or alcohol, also known as the diseases of despair, compared to just 3% of deaths from these causes among the general population.”

However, we must not conflate causes with effects. The statistical data does not tell us whether those 55% of deaths – related to substance misuse or suicide –  would have happened had the citizens concerned not been pushed into destitution, or whether poor mental health and substance misuse contributed to people becoming homeless in the first place. Government statistics show that private sector tenancies coming to an end are the leading cause of homelessness, coupled with low wages and cuts to welfare and delays in payments, leading to insurmountable rent arrears, in both public and private sector housing.

Previously, Brokenshire is on record denying that government cuts have created the spike in homelessness statistics, saying: “I don’t see it in those terms.” He said. “I see it as a combination of concerning elements in terms of addiction, family breakdown issues. The thing that struck me over recent months in speaking to some of the LGBT charities in terms of young people, because of their sexuality, being thrown out of home.”

Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn MP said: “These figures are utterly shameful and reflect a complete failure of Conservative policy on housing, which has seen rough sleeping skyrocket since 2010.

“We are one of the richest countries in the world and there is no excuse for people dying on our streets.

“Labour will provide £100m to ensure that everyone has shelter when it becomes dangerously cold.

“We will end rough sleeping within five years to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.”

The Conservatives reiterated their pledge to eradicate rough sleeping by 2027.  Brokenshire said that work was under way with the Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, to “assess where problems were”.

Brokenshire also revealed that although he personally does not give money to homeless people, he said he buys the Big Issue when he can.

I don’t make any money from my work, and often struggle to get by. If you like, you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others affected by the welfare reforms.

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More than 500 homeless people have died in the last 12 months in the UK

Related image


A landmark, year-long independent investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that 544 homeless peolple have died on Britain’s streets since last winter, although they say the true number is likely to be much higher.

The Bureau’s count of people who have died homeless in the UK since last winter was published just days before the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is due to produce its own first ever count of deaths.

Those that died include an 81 year-old man who was sleeping on the streets, a mother of two that died in a night shelter and a 47 year-old man who died after being tipped into a bin lorry.

The project prompted the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to start compiling its own figures on homeless deaths in England and Wales, which it will release on December 20. Scotland and Northern Ireland’s national records offices are now also considering similar counts.

In October the government pledged to make sure deaths were investigated by local authorities so that lessons could be learned. The Bureau’s figures are “utterly shocking,” said Housing Secretary James Brokenshire, and “it is so important that we understand what has caused those deaths, [by] actually having serious case reviews.”

However, while Brokenshire admitted the figures were “utterly shocking”, he rejected allegations that government policies are behind the growing housing and homelessness crisis. He insisted instead that the “causes of homelessness and rough sleeping are multi-layered and complex”.

“I don’t see it in those terms,” he said – referring to the alleged impact of government policies on low-income and vulnerable people.

“I see it as a combination of concerning elements in terms of addiction, family breakdown issues.”

Brokenshire said he believes that homelessness is driven by factors including the spread of psychoactive drugs such as spice, the growth in non-UK nationals on the streets and family breakdown. These are, however, traditional Conservative stereotypes that are used to explain every social problem and instance of poverty that is linked with the government’s punitive welfare policy and wider austerity programme.  

He continued: “The thing that struck me over recent months in speaking to some of the LGBT charities in terms of young people, because of their sexuality, being thrown out of home.”

He continued waffling: “The causes of homelessness and rough sleeping are multi-layered and complex and therefore we do need to look at this in that way and ensure that councils and other agencies are getting ahead of this and preventing people becoming homeless in the first place.

That is the agenda I want to move to in the new year.”

However the government has admitted that it has not offered any extra funding or support to councils to help them do this. 

The Bureau has found many local authorities are still failing to carry out such reviews, citing lack of resources or saying they do not believe the cases meet the relevant statutory requirements. 

“In one of the world’s richest nations, people with nowhere to turn are dying.” 

In Norfolk, where at least 10 people have died homeless in the last year, the director of Public Health, Dr Louise Smith, said there would be no case reviews because of the review’s “significant cost and our limited resources”. 

Despite the fact that five people died in the same homeless hostel in one year, Brighton and Hove council said that no Safeguarding Adult Reviews would be undertaken, because the deaths had not met the “statutory criteria”. Redbridge council also echoed this reasoning. 

It is crucial that all homeless deaths are investigated so that lessons can be learned, said Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis. “It is disappointing that no progress has been made to support local authorities to implement this.” 

He added: “These statistics are a harrowing reminder of how deadly life on the streets can be.

“As we get closer to Christmas and temperatures are dropping, rough sleepers are facing exposure to dangerous conditions, above and beyond the violence and abuse often experienced when living on the streets.

“It’s a failure of the largest magnitude that in one of the world’s richest nations, people with nowhere to turn are dying.

“This has to stop and the government must put in place a full-scale plan to end homelessness once and for all.

“We also need to see the review system used to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults expanded to include all cases of people who have died whilst street homeless.

“With this in place, crucial lessons can be learned that help prevent further deaths.

“The government recently pledged to make this happen, but it is disappointing that no progress has been made to support local authorities to implement this.

“We cannot wait any longer, we need to see action now.”

“It’s a failure of the largest magnitude that in one of the world’s richest nations, people with nowhere to turn are dying. This has to stop and the government must put in place a full-scale plan to end homelessness once and for all.”

Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s, went even further and called for specific funding for reviews: “We think there is a strong case for Government to fund a separate programme outside of the Safeguarding Adult Review process to ensure every death of someone sleeping rough is reviewed. This way we can identify the changes needed, at the local and national level, to stop these tragedies,” he said.

A recent report from the housing charity Shelter warned that rising homelessness is due to a ‘combination of unaffordable rents, frozen housing benefits and a severe shortage of social housing’.

Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, blamed “the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing” for causing the increasing numbers of homeless people in the UK.

Other research has found that more than 24,000 homeless people will spend this festive season sleeping rough, exposed not only to the harmful elements but also at risk of verbal and physical abuse – and far too often – death.

 

Related

Meet Liam and Michelle. It’s time to listen to the voices of homeless people about the fatal flaws of Universal Credit

Two very vulnerable homeless men left to die in sub-zero temperatures

Please don’t just walk on by, we are better than this

Government backs new law to prevent people made homeless through government laws from becoming homeless

From the abstract to the concrete: urban design as a mechanism of behaviour change and social exclusion

Conservative MPs accuse citizens of ‘scaremongering stories’ about experiences of Universal Credit.

 


I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and often struggle to get by. If you want to, you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

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About the government’s claims on ‘real wages’ being ‘the highest since 2011’…


(Update: Raab has removed the original Tweet. Good job I took a screenshot of it).

 

Firstly, the graph does not show what Raab is claiming. The graph does show that after 8 years of Conservative government, real wages are lower than when the coalition took office. In fact they are lower now than they were during the Great Global Recession in 2008. This shows an appalling and shameful record.

After the global recession in 2008, consumer prices rose faster than the average wage, so the real value of wages fell. They continued to fall until 2014.

The average real wage is now actually lower than it was ten years ago.

Following the recession in 2008, average wages fell almost consistently in real terms until mid-2014. From 2014 to 2016, inflation was low and wages increased, though they’re still not back to their pre-recession levels. Now, inflation has caught up again, and real wages are levelling off a little.

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics showed that in 2014, average earnings for full-time workers grew by only 0.1%. However, the average earnings of full-time workers who had been in their job for more than a year rose by 4.1%.

So although the drop in average earnings tells us something important about the economy overall, it’s not the same as what’s happened to everybody working in the UK.

For example, the level of wages is different depending on where you live in the UK. No region’s average full-time weekly earnings is above its 2009 level.

Wages are highest in London, and the population there has also seen the biggest falls in earned income. The average full-time employee in London earned £655 a week in 2017; down from £700 in real-terms in 2009.

The smallest fall was seen in Northern Ireland, where in 2017 the average full-time weekly wage was £504 a week, down from £522 in real terms in 2009. 

People working for the public sector, such as in the NHS, state schools or the civil service, have seen pay growth being restricted in recent years as a matter of policy.

Public sector pay has grown more slowly than private sector pay for the past four years – though recently it has started to catch up, as the caps have recently started to be lifted.

But the private sector suffered large falls in pay during the post-recession years. 

To understand changes to peoples’ incomes we need to also consider tax and benefit changes as well.

Working households’ average income after taxes and benefits has fallen in real terms, from £35,100 in 2008/09 to £34,500 in 2016/17. That has been calculated by adding income to cash social security and then subtracting direct tax (e.g. income and council tax) and indirect taxes (e.g. VAT) for households where at least one person earns income from employment or self-employment. But that doesn’t include some losses such as the bedroom tax. 

The poorest fifth of households paid the most, as a proportion of their disposable income, on indirect taxes – 29.7% compared with 14.6% paid by the richest fifth of households.

Furthermore, the effects of taxes and benefits (ETB) data from the Office for National Statistics’s (ONS’s) Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF), are from a small, voluntary sample survey on which these data are calculated which comprises of around just 5,000 private households in the UK.

The ONS say themselves that the sample tends not to include the very poorest and the very wealthiest citizens. That means there is under-reporting at the top and bottom of the income distribution as well as non-response error (see The effects of taxes and benefits upon household income Quality and Methodology Information report for further details of the sources of error.

That is likely to distort the view of the extent of income inequality.

It’s also worth looking at some comparison at an international level, too.

Oh dear.

When citizens use a public service, it’s viewed as a ‘payment in kind’

‘Benefits in kind’ – education and healthcare, for example – are also added to the final amount of income that citizens are estimated to have. However, this distorts the calculation of average income levels. Citizens pay taxes and so contribute towards paying for these services, and the poorest citizens are likeliest to rely on them rather more than the wealthiest citizens.

This means that in effect, poorer citizens using public services appear to be better off than they actually are, since using public services does not increase incomes. In fact the smaller the income that citizens have, the more likely it is that they will need to use public services. That does not make them any wealthier than they are.

Consequently, the ratio of income of the richest fifth to the poorest fifth appears to fall from twelve to one, to five to one. The inclusion of indirect taxes (for example, alcohol duties, Value Added Tax (VAT) and so on) and benefits in kind (for example, education, National Health Service) further reduces this ratio to less than four to one. 

That does not present an accurate picture regarding income distribution. The poorest fifth of households received relatively larger amounts of ‘benefits in kind’ in 2017. This however, is not income. Nor is it a ‘gift’, since most people have paid into the Treasury and contributed council tax towards the services that they may need to use.

It’s almost like charging people twice for public services, which is utterly disgraceful. It would be very interesting to see the calculation of UK income distribution without this political cheat, that makes it look as though the poorest citizens are rather better off than they actually are. 

Finally, its worth remembering that despite their claims, the Conservatives inherited an economy that had escaped the impact of the global crash, and was out of recession by the last quarter of 2009. By 2011, the Conservatives put us back in recession. It’s what Conservatives do. Thatcher and Major both created recession in the UK, as did Cameron’s government. Despite pledging to keep our triple A level international Fitch and Moody credit ratings – another thing the Tories inherited – Obsorne lost them. Then in 2016, the UK was stripped of its last AAA rating as credit agency – Standard & Poor’s –  who warned of the economic, fiscal and constitutional risks the country now faces as a result of the EU referendum result.

The two-notch downgrade came with a warning that S&P could slash its rating again. It described the result of the vote as “a seminal event” that would “lead to a less predictable stable and effective policy framework in the UK”.

Yet the Conservatives claim they are the party of ‘economic competence’. You just have to laugh at that. 

Image result for a big labour boy osborne kittysjones

I’ll leave you with this comment, which made me chuckle:

Update

Wages are still worth a third less in some parts of the country than a decade ago, according to a report. Research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that the average worker has lost £11,800 in real earnings since 2008.

The organisation said that the UK has suffered the worst real wage slump among leading economies

The biggest losses have been in areas including the London borough of Redbridge, Epsom and Waverley in Surrey, Selby in North Yorkshire and Anglesey in north Wales, the studyfound.

Workers have suffered real wage losses ranging from just under £5,000 in the north-east to more than £20,000 in London, said the report.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “The government has failed to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis. As a result, millions of families will be worse off this Christmas than a decade ago.

“While pay packets have recovered in most leading economies, wage growth in the UK is stuck in the slow lane.

“Ministers need to wake up and get wages rising faster. This means cranking up the pressure on businesses to pay staff more, especially at a time when many companies are sitting on large profits.”

A government spokesman said: “The UK’s jobs market has never been stronger, employment is at a record high with more people in work in every region of the UK since 2010 and wages are now rising at their fastest in a decade.

“We have cut income tax for 31 million people, and through the national living wage we have helped to deliver the fastest wage growth in 20 years for over two million of the lowest-paid workers.”

Stephen Clarke, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said: “While wages are currently growing at their fastest rate in a decade and employment is at a record high, the sobering big picture is that inflation-adjusted pay is still almost £5,000 a year lower than when Lehman Brothers was still around.

“Stronger wage growth is needed to make 2019 a better year for living standards than this one.”

A change from the government that is utterly conservative with the truth would be a good starting point.


 

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PMQs showcases a government that is spiteful and Conservative with the truth


In a very wealthy so-called liberal democracy, from 2016 to last year, these are the reasons why people were referred to food banks. The highest number of referals are among the low earners, demonstrating the government’s slogan ‘making work pay’ is a myth. Work does not pay for many. However, the government chooses to gaslight the population about consequences of it’s policies.

Today in Prime Minister’s Questions: 

As my local Labour MP, Kevan Jones quipped: “the Conservatives will be celebrating re-opening workhouses next.”

The spite and malice on the Prime Minister’s face as she responds to the opposition, using blatant and snide playground gestures to intimidate never fails to anger me. It’s disgraceful that the government reduce serious political issues to immature ‘win or lose’ game playing and PR tactics.

The truth is that Universal Credit is not just failing our ‘relative’ contemporary standards of poverty but those of William Beveridge in the 1940s. Conservatives accuse Labour of ‘taking us back to the seventies’, but May’s government have taken us back to the 1940s, and to absolute poverty levels that existed before there was a welfare state. Absolute poverty is when people cannot meet their basic survival needs: food, fuel and shelter. The UK’s publicly funded social security system is no longer an adequate provision for people to meet the costs of their most fundamental and universal human needs. 

This is a government that has demanded the most from those citizens with the very least under the guise of austerity, while handing out public funds to the private banks accounts of the wealthiest.

Theresa May also selectively and maliciously quoted a section of a book – Economics For The Many  – which was edited by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, declaring Labour’s costed manifesto “doesn’t add up”. the Prime Minister went on it to claim the Labour party would “wreck the economy”, but as usual she was being Conservative with the facts.

She attempted to make it look like Professor Simon Wren-Lewis was criticising Labour’s economic strategy, but he wasn’t. The quote mining – a frequently used Conservative strategy to present lies and to mislead parliament and the public – referred to a book chapter May referred to by Wren Lewis , an economist and member of Labour’s Economic Advisory Committee.  Basically the chapter says that Labour will ensure: 

  • The Government is spending less than it takes in in tax within five years
  • Government debt is falling within five years
  • Labour will only borrow for investment and infrastructure, not for day-to-day spending.

Wren Lewis never said that Labour’s manifesto didn’t ‘add up’. He said that other people claimed it didn’t add up. And he said that it didn’t matter.

Wren Lewis notes in the chapter that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)claimed it ‘doesn’t add up’ – which is a very different thing. And actually, the IFS didn’t really say that either. It said that it was “hard to say” whether Labour’s pledge to reduce debt was compatible with their promises of a wave of nationalisations of water and energy.

The IFS said essentially that because the Labour party would transform the economy so radically, it would be impossible to say whether their manifesto costings would be accurate.

It’s a priceless cheek, as well as a malicious attack, especially considering that the Conservatives did not bother to cost their own manifesto at all.

The blatant lie also shows the prime minister’s utter contempt for democracy.

Finally, a word about the Conservative’s crowing regarding ‘their’ employment levels. 

The ‘high employment’ narrative does not benefit citizens, who face zero hour contracts, little employment security and more than half of those people needing to claim welfare support are in work. The Conservative’s definition of ‘employment’ includes people who work as little as one hour a week. It includes carers. It also includes people who have been sanctioned.

Now there is a perverse incentive to furnish a hostile environment of Department for Work and Pensions’ administrative practices in action.

When the Conservatives took office in 2010, on average citizens earned £467 a week. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that we now take home £460 a week. In other words, average wages have gone down in real terms during the eight years of Conservative-Lib Dem and Conservative governments, while the cost of living has risen substantially. It’s a misleading to make these claims at all when weekly earnings are actually 1.3 per cent lower now in real terms than they were when the Conservatives took office in 2010.

Furthermore, the ONS also produced household data suggesting that the true rate of unemployment is 4 times greater than the government’s preferred statistic.

The Conservative’s official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate, of course. In reality, about 21.5% of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics. I know whose statistics I believe, given the Conservative’s track record of abusing figures and telling lies.

Here is more data here on the effect of chronic underemployment of the unemployment rate, and the depressing Conservative reality of the ‘business friendly’ gig economy.

Conservatives being conservative with the truth as ever.

And spiteful.


 

I don’t make any money from my work. But you can help me by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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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

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Government refuse to publish Brexit impact assessment. We need to ask why

“Despite calls from over 150 MP’s and threats of legal action, the Department for Exiting The European Union are still refusing to publish Brexit impact assessments.” David Lammy.

Whitehall’s internal risk assessments of the impact of leaving the EU on various sectors of the UK economy have remained the private property of the government. The government’s reluctance to publish them has been one of the most controversial, and widely discussed, features of its approach to Brexit. Ministers say that publication would undermine their hand in the Brexit talks and could influence the debate on Brexit if they were revealed. Circulation of the assessment is said to be highly restricted inside government because of its political sensitivity.

However the government’s authoritarian refusal to publish these documents is undemocratic, and it means the public will be intentionally kept in the  dark about Whitehall’s internal analysis over the economic impact of Brexit. Not a government that’s fond of public scrutiny, transparency and democratic accountability, then.

If you think my use of the term “authoritarian” is a bit strong, it’s worth remembering that in 2012, the government was ordered more than once by the Information Commisioner and by a Tribunal to release the risk register document relating to the impact of the controversial Health and Social Care Bill. Ministers vetoed the disclosure, and said that revealing such information would “interfere with policymaking”, and as such, was “not in the public interest.”  However, the Information Tribunal had ruled that the public interest in publishing the risk register was “very high, if not exceptional”.

Nonetheless, it has never been published for the public to see. Over the last 7 years, I have given many other examples of policies and narrative that indicate the Conservative’s strong authoritarian tendency.

The highly controversial Welfare “Reform” Act ( key measures of which were the introduction of Universal Credit, the “bedroom tax”, changes and steep cuts to disability benefits, the introduction of  a harsh and punitive sanctioning regime and the benefit cap) was defeated several times in parliament. The government implemented it nonetheless, by enforcing the “financial privilege” of the Commons in order to ignore the serious concerns raised and the refuse to entertain the mitigating amendments from the House of Lords.

Parliamentary debate regarding Brexit legislation is at a crucial stage, but opposition parties are given very little information before they are expected to make key decisions and vote on them. This is not an isolated or incidental set of circumstances. It’s emerged as a key Conservative strategy over the last few years, to ensure that parliamentary and public scrutiny and debate of controversial legislation is minimal. It’s a government that likes to get its own way, regardless of what the majority of the population may think. 

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, has said: “Brexit isn’t a game – people’s livelihoods and futures are at stake.

The Prime Minister seems to be intentionally keeping people in the dark in her quest to leave the single market and customs union.

The Government must publish their secret impact assessments as soon as possible so people know what’s in store and what the government is putting at risk.

Public services, unions and government need to plan for the future, we can’t do that when the government is hiding so much information from everyone.”

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There has always been a substantial gap between the Conservatives’ ideological position and economic prudence. Despite assurances earlier this year from the government, the Daily Mail  and the Express that our economy is “thriving”, they have somehow managed to misplace £490bn of our cash. That’s half a trillion pounds. It’s equivalent to 25 per cent of GDP.

This quote from the Daily Mail hasn’t held up very well in the fullness of time:

“In a damning assessment of the scaremongering by the Remain camp, the Office for National Statistics declared that there had been no post-referendum economic shock.”

I think it’s a bit of an economic shock to discover that the UK’s wealth has suddenly diminished from a surplus of £469bn to a net deficit of £22bn, and that investment in the UK by overseas companies and individuals fell from a £120bn surplus in the first half of 2016 to a £25bn deficit, over the same period, in 2017. 

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to leave the EU has itself “raised uncertainty and dented business investment” in the UK, a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned. 

The report says that real wages are being stripped back amid soaring inflation, despite low unemployment. Of course this has been a longstanding problem under successive Conservative governments as they have pared back labor market regulation and undermined the very notion of workers rights and collective bargaining. The balance of power was deliberately tipped against unprotected employees, in favour of exploitative and bad employers.

David Cameron introduced enormous fees of £1,200 for anyone seeking redress from an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal or discrimination. The crippling cost had its intended effect – in one year there was a 67% drop in the number who could afford to use tribunals. Only the highly paid or those backed by a union can now seek help. Women have been the hardest hit as sex discrimination cases fell by over 80% in the first year of fees.

Then there came the Trade Union Act which was deliberately designed to set too high a bar for strikes – a conditional ballot requiring a 50% turnout, and 40% of the electorate to vote yes.

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, says: 

“Pay packets are taking a hammering. This is the sixth month in a row that prices have risen faster than wages.

Britain desperately needs a pay rise. Working people are earning less today (in real-terms) than a decade ago.

The Chancellor must help struggling families when he gives his Budget next month. This means ditching the artificial pay restrictions on nurses, midwives and other public sector workers. And investing in jobs that people can live on.” 

Despite their eyewateringly disingenuous rhetoric, the Tories have never been “the party of the workers”. Real wages are still shrinking , the cost of living is spiralling upwards, inflation was 2.6% in July (the mid-point of the quarter), and jumped to 3% in September.

Today, in response to the ONS employment report that was published, the Resolution Foundation analyst, Stephen Clarke, says:

“Today’s figures confirm the big picture trend that the UK labour market is great at creating jobs, but terrible at raising people’s pay.

“The scale of the pay squeeze over the last decade is so vast that people today are earning no more than they did back in February 2006, despite the economy being 4.4 per cent bigger per person since then.”

Britons would need a £15 per week pay rise to get back to the levels before the financial crisis.

Brexit, the economy and more shenanigans

The 140-page annual report from the OECD outlines the state of Britain’s economy 16 months after last year’s EU Leave vote.

It also says the deadlock in talks has put Britain on course for a “disorderly Brexit”, suggesting: “In case Brexit gets reversed by political decision (change of majority, new referendum, etc), the positive impact on growth would be significant.” 

The deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats said it was clear from the OECD report that a second vote was needed to prevent the harm caused by Brexit.

Jo Swinson said: “Brexit has already caused the UK to slip from top to bottom of the international growth league for major economies.

“This will only get worse if the government succeeds in dragging us out of the single market and customs union, or we end up crashing out of Europe without a deal.”

At least 20 members of May’s cabinet backed remaining in the EU in the run-up to last year’s referendum. 

The Treasury and Conservative ministers have rejected the OECD’s suggestion of second Brexit referendum, despite the warning from the thinktank that Britain must stay close to the EU or face long-term decline, and that reversing the decision to leave would significantly benefit the economy. 

I wonder if Philip Hammond’s Autumn budget on 22 November will continue to push the “balancing the budget” theme – a Conservative euphemism for more austerity, and the poorest citizens having to live within the governments’ dwindling and increasingly miserly “means,” now that he’s somehow misplaced a massive amount from the public purse. It’s going to be very difficult to woo the electorate with such a backdrop of even more looming poverty for the demographic that Conservatives usually direct their traditional prejudices at. For many of us, the “no gain without [your] pain” mantra doesn’t endear the Conservatives or switch on our confidence in their “long-term economic plan”.

There is a veritable chasm between policy and democracy, rhetoric and empirical evidence, not forgetting the galaxy-sized space between facts and techniques of persuasion. Maybe the Conservatives are still trying to convince themselves, in the their typical blustering, unreachable, non-dialogic “because we say so” way that always indicates denial and authoritarianism, that they can persuade a cut-weary public that austerity will suddenly work if we persist for yet another decade.

The “paying down the debt” deadline set by the chancellor has become an elusive goalpost, forever retreating into the future, and now we are expected to believe that by 2025, our economy will be fine and we’ll have a comfortable surplus instead of an ever greedy black hole of trillions.

Back in 2010, we were reassured by George Osborne that the government’s aim was for the deficit to be eliminated by 2015, and in his first budget he said that aim would be achieved, based on the government forecasts of the time. That didn’t happen. By November in 2011, the first surplus was forecast for 2016/17. By December 2013, it had been pushed back again to 2017/18. Now it’s been pushed back to 2025.

That’s providing that the public continue to believe the Conservatives have a shred of economic credibility for the forseeable, of course. Personally, I think that people are starting to grasp that the continuing radical cuts to public spending the economy will continue to shrink rather than expand the economy, because it’s not rocket science, and besides, we have now witnessed 7 years worth of empirical evidence that austerity does not work the way the Conservatives say it will. There’s only so many times that the Conservatives can get away with saying “but the economic damage was greater than we feared”.

The Tories have succeeded in being economical with the truth. But the fullness of time itself – the last 7 long years – has been a very good test of verisimilitude. The Conservatives failed. The public have noticed.

Only months ago, before the election, the government were boasting about the economic “recovery”. Yet when it comes to actual policies, we see more miserly austerity cuts, juxtaposed with generous tax cuts for very wealthy people, and the justification narratives always sound as if those carrying the brunt of austerity cuts – our poorest citizens: disabled people, young people, those on the lowest wages, public sector workers and so on – are somehow culpable personally for the state of the economy, inequality and poverty.

Some disabled people have been forced by the state to “tighten their belts” on behalf of the nation to the point that it has actually killed them. I can’t help but wonder how long the public are willing to sacrifice politically marginalised groups in the name of “the national interest” and “the deficit” just for the sake of fulfilling economic dogma, traditional Conservative prejudice and nasty, antisocial ideology.

The revised figures from the Office for National Statistics figures have weakened the governments’ position in Brexit talks. On Monday, the prime minister is meeting with European Union leaders, Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, a matter of only days after the exit negotiations were deadlocked.

The OECD said Britain must secure “the closest possible economic relationship” with the EU after Brexit to prevent the economy suffering a long-term decline.

Angel Gurría, the OECD’s secretary general, said Brexit would be as harmful as the second world war blitz and the British would need to act on the propaganda maxim to “keep calm and carry on.” That doesn’t exactly bode well. 

The revision of UK national accounts, the ONS “Blue Book”, shows that the country no longer has a net reserve of foreign assets, and therefore no safety margin while talks with the European Union reach a critical point, as time runs out to reach an agreement.

Is no prime minister better than a bad prime minister?

The half a trillion pounds that has gone missing is equivalent to 25 per cent of GDP.  

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that if we leave without a deal, trade with the EU would fall by as much as 29%, costing the UK economy between £48.6 billion and £58 billion – the equivalent to between £741 and £884 per person.

The Treasury, rather worryingly,  is equally pessimistic saying it could cost 800,000 jobs, cut GDP by 6% and see the pound fall by 15%.

The Conservatives have succeeded in raising employment figures, but all that means in reality is that more people earning smaller wages.

And the pay squeeze is set to continue.

Maike Currie, investment director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International, says the rise of the ‘gig’ economy, and the government’s public sector pay cap, are partly to blame for the wage squeeze:

Another month, another fall in real household incomes. Today’s wage growth figures show our total earnings including bonuses grew at just 2.2% in the three months to August . With yesterday’s CPI figures showing inflation spiking to an eye watering 3%, the gap between our pay packets and the cost of goods and services continues to remain vast – our wages are not keeping up with the rising cost of living.

“The absence of wage growth remains the missing piece of the puzzle in the UK’s slow road to recovery – high employment should be the worker’s best friend because that’s what pushes up wages. With UK unemployment at a 45-year low, one would think that workers’ bargaining power at the wage negotiation table would improve, yet earnings growth remains elusive and the UK’s workforce is getting poorer. There are many potential reasons for this ranging from poor productivity to the squeeze on public sector pay and the rise of self-employment in the so-called ‘gig economy’.

Treasury documents showed Britain could lose up to £66bn a year if it pursues the hard Brexit option – leaving the single market and EU customs union.

Yet May’s Conservative conference speech signalled that the UK will prioritise immigration over single market access in Brexit talks, which also sent confidence in pound sterling plummeting.

While the longer-term economic impacts of Brexit are yet to unfold, and surprise everyone except the government, today’s report from the Resolution Foundation think-tank strongly suggests that the lowest paid could once again be hardest hit. It’s like everything this government touches upon immediately loses its value.

A draft Cabinet committee paper, which is based on a controversial study published by George Osborne in April during the referendum campaign, says:

“The net impact on public sector receipts – assuming no contributions to the EU and current receipts from the EU are replicated in full –would be a loss of between £38 billion and £66 billion per year after 15 years, driven by the smaller size of the economy.”

This evening the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Better Brexit for Young People released a report on the concerns and priorities for Britain’s youth during the Brexit negotiations. The report, compiled in association with LSE, gathered data from forty focus groups of 18 to 24-year-olds from varying economic, geographical and social backgrounds over an eleven-month period from November 2016 to September 2017.

The report, which is divided into three sections, explores youth views on the current state of Brexit, their concerns about Brexit and their priorities for Brexit negotiations.

In the introduction, it says: 

“[Respondents] spoke of their concern about the economic pressures they face with regard to housing, jobs, and education, and the political, social and economic direction of travel that Brexit represents”.

This opinion, says The LSE say that this is an opinion that was shared by over 90 per cent of those surveyed, demonstrating an overwhelmingly negative view of Brexit and its consequences. It’s clear that the referendum stirred feelings among many young people  of sadness, anger and frustration at the outcome of the referendum, and some of that was directed at people who voted to leave – the majority being older generations.  The government chose not to give the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds in the referendum. It is fair to ask whether allowing them to vote could have changed the result of the referendum or not.

Neoliberalism: more business as usual

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the near meltdown of the global financial system would prompt a comprehensive rethink of the principles underlying neoliberalism. Instead, the crisis was exploited to de-fund social welfare provision on a grand scale, to dismantle the social gains from our post-war settlement ) legal aid, the NHS and other public service provision, social housing and civil rights, and to hand out our public funds to a small and very wealthy cabal. Austerity socialised losses for the poorest, and privatised hand outs in the form of tax cuts. Labor market deregulation and increasing trade union regulation also benefitted the wealthiest, resulting in the growth of exploitative wages, job insecurity and poor employment practices for ordinary people, and big profits for the wealthiest. 

Immediately following the referendum result, the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), a free market thinktank, revealed what many of us suspected – Brexit has presented the Conservatives with a cornucopia of opportunities to extend the principles of an already overarching, totalisin ideology to its absolute limits. The CPS said:

“The weakness of the Labour party and the resolution of the EU question have created a unique political opportunity to drive through a wide-ranging … revolution on a scale similar to that of the 1980s … This must include removing unnecessary regulatory burdens on businesses, such as those related to climate directives and investment fund[s].”

Shortly after, George Osborne proposed to cut corporation tax from 20% to below 15%, to staunch the haemorrhage of investment. During the coming months and years, the unfolding Brexit fueled economic crisis will provide countless pretexts for similar “emergency measures” that solely benefit big business profits and of course “roll back the state”. 

This is inevitable if the current government remain in office. There will be no Brexit risk assessment available to the public. There will be no vote in parliament, no second referendum, no fresh elections: just the most massive, scheming and authoritarian legislative programme in history within the current parliament, in which the Tories command an absolute majority based on 37% of the votes cast in the last general election.

So much for “taking back democratic control”. 

Tom Coberg, writing for the Canary, says:

“[…] it was not long after the 2016 EU referendum that one commentator observed how the Conservatives appeared to be adopting tactics akin to “disaster capitalism“. And that with Brexit:

[…] the prize is the opportunity to rework an almost infinite range of detailed arrangements both inside and outside the UK, to redraw at breakneck speed the legal framework that will govern all aspects of our lives.

May has begun to prepare the public for this. And according to Joe Owen of the Institute for Government, the civil service drew up plans for a ‘no deal’ “months ago”. Though, given the close links between the Tories and Legatum, such a scenario may have been the plan all along.

Or to put it another way: extreme Tory Brexit looks as if it could mean exploitation of the many, for the benefit of the few.”

 We are taking our country back. 

We’re heading for the feudal era, singing Hayek’s deadly anthem all the way. 

When the “free market” came to Chile

 


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Government rebuked again for misusing statisics – this time on homelessness

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Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Rosalind Grender, has submitted a formal complaint to the UK Statistics Authority about the government’s misuse of homelessness statistics in press notices and parliamentary debates.

In a letter responding to her concerns, Ed Humpherson, the Authority’s director general, said he agreed with her complaint. He described the Department’s use of the figures as “disappointing” and that it was “potentially misleading” to the public.

It’s not the first time the government has been reprimanded officially, for trying to mislead the public. Who could forget David Cameron being rebuked by the statistics watchdog over national debt claims – The PM said the government was “paying down Britain’s debts” in a political broadcast, even though the debt was rising (and continues to increase).

Then there was Iain Duncan Smith’s unforgettable misuse of benefit statistics – he was rebuked by Office for National Statistics (ONS) for his claim that 8,000 people moved into work as a result of the benefit cap which was found to be “unsupported by the official statistics.” 

Later in that same month, Duncan Smith also drew criticism and a reprimand for claiming 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 assessment.

Anyone would think that the Conservatives are trying to hide the damaging consequences of their draconian policies. (See: The DWP mortality statistics: facts, values and Conservative concept control.) 

The UK Statistics Authority disputed figures announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which claimed last year that homelessness had been more than halved since 2003.

However, the government’s claim was based on a very narrow statutory definition of homelessness which included only those who authorities are obliged to help. The number did not take into account homeless people who were given assistance under other schemes.The overall number of people facing homelessness has not dropped. The government also did not explicitly include the statutory homelessness definition in parliamentary debates in the House of commons and Lords, or in press releases.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’re aware of the issue raised and have taken steps to make sure this does not arise in future.”

Baroness Grender welcomed the finding saying that the Government “has been caught out playing a numbers game, rather than accepting there is a problem, and getting on with the important work of finding solutions”.  

“It is time to stop spinning the statistics and start solving the problem,” she said.

 

Looks like my list from 2014  – A list of official rebukes for Tory lies – needs updating.

 

Related

Government backs new law to prevent people made homeless through government laws from becoming homeless

Labour Party To Refer Groundless Iain Duncan Smith Claim To Statistics Watchdog Again

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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