Saturday, 26 February 2011

Distortion For Dummies (And a Reference for The Rest of Us)

In Case file #4 I asked you to remember something about Labour introducing the Pension Credit just as the first baby-boomers were beginning their retirement, which almost certainly would have pushed Income Support claims up as the over 60s made up more than half the claimants. Instead of Income Support, they would receive Pension Credit with the added benefit that the means-test would not punish them for having a bit of savings and look mostly at their income instead.

I don't believe for a moment that Labour did this purely out of kindness, considering their actions and briefings against benefit claimants probably contributed to the fall in many of them in the last decade, but this was just a trick to keep Income Support from becoming a headline matter as claims were due to soar. Whilst it was rising among the over-60s, it was falling among those of working age; so much for single mothers fuelling rises in claims. Even with Child Benefits thrown in, living on Income Support isn't easy when you have to raise offspring.

Rule #1 Of The Way of The Fiddler: when you don't want the numbers to go up- divide them.  Isolate those that rise from those that do not.

With Income Support split into two, the numbers when compared separately are much more favourable.

Retiring men don't appear to show up, but men tend not to claim Income Support or Pension Credit as much as women. This is possibly because men on average have higher incomes and better pensions but I can't know for sure right now. The slight drop in Income Support in 2008 coincides though with the male retirement of the same group of baby-boomers that started their retirement in 2003. It could mean that men on low-incomes have lost Income Support and not been told or have otherwise chosen not to claim Pension Credit.

Well that's one way of making the numbers cease going up, but what if you want them to rise? If splitting benefits keeps the figures down, wouldn't joining them bring them up? Well that would be too obvious, people would notice. If you want to inflate a figure you need to do it the same way that was done with Disability Living Allowance. You can claim DLA if you are under 60(or 65 for men), have a sickness or disability which substantially affects your ability to care for yourself or to get about and in this case it's important not to confuse 'mobility' with 'travel' as the Coalition does when they justify their removal of mobility DLA for care-home residents. Mobility DLA could be used for postage and packaging for things which a person can not take to or bring from a shop, a wheelchair, a mobile phone and even a basic broadband connection. None of these are for issues with travel, a person can need these things and have no problem at all with travel, just their basic mobility. Someone in a care-home with complex mobility issues but with no problem travelling is still going to have their DLA mobility cut off because of Coalition ignorance unless they go through with that much talked-about U-turn. But being disabled, ill and in need of help isn't enough, you need to have already needed help for at least six months, meaning up to your knees in shit long before some relief is available except in the case of a diagnosed terminal illness. Half of those that attempt to claim DLA will be turned down outright. You have to wonder if the decision-makers base it on a coin-toss.

The quirk of DLA though is that for the over 60s(65) you claim Attendance Allowance instead, but if you already claim DLA when you reach retirement age you can still claim it rather than Attendance Allowance. The difference is that Attendance Allowance doesn't have a Mobility component and doesn't have have an equivalent lower bracket for Care; the AA lower bracket is equivalent to the middle bracket DLA. Because people can keep on claiming DLA rather than AA in retirement, this means DLA was only ever going to grow. There was no transition from DLA to AA as with what happened with Income Support to Pension Credit.

Attendance Allowance is actually an older benefit than DLA which was introduced in 1992; it would have been obvious from the start that Attendance Allowance claims would fall and DLA ones would rise strongly until there were virtually no AA claimants left except for those who become severely sick or disabled after retiring. A spanner is somewhat thrown in the works because of the rising number of elderly people if the intention was to stall the number for people claiming Attendance Allowance. A significant proportion of the rise however was shifted to DLA.

Rule #2 Of The Way of The Fiddler: When you want to arrest a severe predicted claimant rise in a population which votes in high numbers and society will absolutely not forgive you for targeting, transfer many of them progressively to a group which is easier to characterise as possibly undeserving. 

Allow pensioners to carry on claiming within this secondary buffer group and give them an incentive to do so(Mobility and lower bracket awards). Be sure to target the buffer group: DLA Claimants, in the press and in public statements. 

The difference in eight years is that pensioners are claiming nearly 4.5% more of the share than they did before rather than Attendance Allowance. What if DLA and AA were identical and people were transitioned to AA from DLA on their retirement? If we add Attendance Allowance claimants to the Pension Age figures we get this:

If the rises in DLA and Attendance Allowance say anything, it's that people are getting old. By linking the figures for DLA and AA, politicians set things ready for DLA claimants to be thrown under a bus because of an 'inexplicable' rise in DLA claims. I'm not sure if this rule came in when DLA was introduced or if it was introduced since then and will look around to find out.

Case file #5 is a speculative investigation intended to anticipate deception not just in the compiling of data, but in the use of it.

Case file #5 finds that even if the arrangement of DLA and AA was not deliberate and cynical, then politicians of today are at least in the frame of mind that they can take advantage of it without fear of being scrutinised. In time they might come to realise they are mistaken and for The Files of Mason Dixon, Autistic; the investigation is always on-going. 


  1. Arec

    Manipulation of people and figures is a hallmark of this gvt. - I am not absolving Labour by saying that, just looking at current situation.

    If as many as possible are removed from DLA before reaching 60 this alone would save money. Remember this is only about money never about the dignity or life quality of people.

    One factor not mentioned - not perhaps even considered - is that the 'saving' of money in one gvt. department is placing extra financial burdens on others. There are now thousands of NHS beds being 'blocked' by frail elderly people who do not need medical treatment. Quite simply there is nowhere for them go as there insufficient care homes.

    We all know that the withdrawal of benefits from disabled children and their carers could mean that children will require residential care - a much more expensive and less personally caring environment.

    If true figures for costs resulting from these changes were available I suspect the long term extra costs will oustrip any so called saving.

    The costs will rise proportionate to the misery caused.

  2. Arec

    This is an aside from your specific posting today but it is relevant to the overall picture.

    a report this week says there are 90,000 children living below poverty line in Wales alone (15% 0f our children ) Multiply that by 3 to include their families.

    Some of these children are from families with at least one working parent. Children of a disabled parent are probably also included but I have not yet found detailed breakdown of figures.

    I am wondering just how many people will there be officially living below the poverty line when all these changes are fully implemented .

    there are serious questions to be asked about the kind of society we are building.

    Measuring peoples' value against the money they generate or cost will not build a healthy society. David Cameron talks about the BS , exhorting us to be community conscious while at the same time completely devaluing individuals and robbing them of their dignity.

  3. hi arec,,graphically speaking your graphs need much bigger typeface,,the graphs are major info nuggets and will benefit from loud shouty titles,,


  4. 3p4

    The adding of AA for pensioners to DLA of people of working age certainly distorts the figures.

    I understand that in 2013 pensioners will be reassesed - particularly those who have moved onto AA from DLA.

    There is a lot of pain to come. Many pensioners will be isolated through diminished incomes. Many of those now demonising the younger disabled people are going to find their own elderly relatives in dire straits.

    Unless they open their eyes and understand the broader picture they are all in for some nasty surprises.

  5. Leni, sometimes AA claimants are included and sometimes they aren't depending on the statement being made by the government.

    By allowing existing claimants of DLA to keep claiming when they reach retirement age, the DLA figures are inflated and the AA figures are kept down. In the first graph I show how this was done with Income Support and Pension credit. You could say Income support starts out really high and as baby-boomers begin to retire the obvious prediction is that Income Support is about to shoot up. By splitting it into two benefits, both are made to look more moderate.

    When politicians want to talk about the expanding cost of DLA, they sometimes include Attendance Allowance. But what they do mostly, the main distorting trick here is that they don't explain the complicating factor to their audience about most DLA claimants being pensioners. That is where the largest growth is happening and is the main reason for the increase in the rate of claimants in the last decade. It's people who should be claiming AA remaining DLA claimants.

  6. Regarding the size of the graphs and the typeset, you can click on them to get larger versions. I try to include the URL for the specific source tables too.

    Currently I'm looking at the DWP tabulation tool and the data it provides, but I'm hoping to expand my source base and use a more wider range of data. Specifically the ones government departments use rather than just the ones they publish. This is difficult with the DWP though as their publications tend to cite other DWP papers which cite other DWP papers and then conclude the chain with 'internal DWP research'.

    I've been looking at Liberal Conspiracy, FullFact and LeftFootFoward to see the sources they use when debunking factual claims.

  7. Hi Arec - piece from today's Herald you may not have seen.

  8. The Herald article is representative both of my experience and that of others I have regular contact with. It's a problem because it has both a short and long-term impact on the functioning of Autistic adults and the development of children. There's something I want to write about this but will have to wait until tomorrow(otherwise known as later today).

  9. Miss-typed in that post from weeks ago: I didn't mean to say most DLA claimants are pensioners but most DLA and AA claimants combined are pensioners, as shown in the last graph.

  10. Stuff Pensioners.21 April 2011 at 18:48

    @Leni "Many pensioners will be isolated through diminished incomes"

    Haha, no.

    They get £10k minimum income guarantee. They're now getting £200 per month added to that. These 'poor' pensioners on 'only' £12,400 a year also get cold weather payments, heating allowance, free prescriptions, free public transport, reduced gas and electricity payments, council tax benefit and housing benefit etc.

    My 'poor' father-in-law pays £12 council tax a month, and £12 rent a week (that includes gas and electric!). He has £9k in £20 notes in a box in his house that he has saved up since OCTOBER (gets roughly £1500 a month pension+benefits).

    I am classed as 'high income'. I am on IB of £100 a week. I have to pay for my prescriptions and I am not entitled to housing or council tax benefit, heating allowance, cold weather payments etc.

    £5200 p.a. without perks - high income and severely disabled/

    £12,400+HA+CWP+CTB+HB p.a. = poor poverty stricken individual, despite having plenty of money and being totally fit and well.