Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Case #4: The Atos Cycle

Did you know that ninety-million percent of those trying to claim ESA dropped their claim before they could be assessed? Isn't that just the smoking gun (of a Texas Sharpshooter no doubt) that shows a huge number of claimants for disability and sickness benefits are fake? I mean you see in the figures how they run when they see an objective assessment of their supposed 'condition' is coming at them.

Note: some of the press releases which earned Chris Grayling a referral to the Cabinet Office for misconduct have disappeared from the DWP website, but aren't we lucky The National Archives are often over-looked and probably would have refused a request to remove stuff. No wonder Tim Berners-Lee suggested that everything the government has, they should put online. This is the missing press release for January, but the one for April is currently unobtainable. The difference between the missing January and April press releases and the February one (apart from it being only about the Aberdeen and Burnley IB-ESA transfer trials rather than nationwide figures) that is still available is that the missing two are the ones that attracted complaints. The Cabinet Office response to The Broken of Britain was that "Chris Grayling is the very model of a modern major general...".

EDIT: I make a terrible mistake and apologise. The links I had to the press releases were correct when I first had them but don't work any more. Further speculations I make about why the 'press releases are missing' are an epic failure to apply Occam's Razor on my part as I was unable to spot the press releases in the list on the DWP website after my links failed. The major point of the post, regarding the natural out-take of claimants coming off benefits not being factored in official claims of 'people who stopped their claim before or during assessment' and of the extraordinary number of ESA claimants in the Assessment phase- remain unchanged. Read on. 

The February 10th 2011 DWP press release used more moderate, less emotionally charged and overtly political language. But crucially it said nothing about claims dropped 'before assessment', whilst the January one did (it said 39% of claims 'were closed before assessment was complete or assessment still in progress'') and apparently so did the still-missing April one (which said 36%).You may have noticed in recent weeks there has in fact been no murmur about those who are said to have dropped their claim before they were put through the Work Capability Assessment. Here comes the context.

Remember this graph from earlier posts?
Click to enlarge

It shows that after new claims for Incapacity Benefit were stopped in August 2008, the number of IB claimants immediately started dropping and in the space of two years it was quite dramatic. This was not affected by the IB to ESA transfer trials in Aberdeen and Burnley because that was just over a thousand people. The numbers for August and November 2010 have come out since I made that graph and they were still dropping at enormous speed. It will stop suddenly when the data for February or May 2011 becomes available as the number of IB claimants as of when the nationwide IB to ESA transfer began was estimated to be 1.6 million claimants; a drop of almost 800,000 in less than 3 years. It's drops so fast because the intake for IB looked like this:
Click to enlarge
By using the DWP tabulation tool to look at IB claims less than 3 months old gives you a rough impression of how many people are coming onto IB at a time. More than 120,000 people made new claims for IB every 3 months up until August 2008. Surely the figures showing total IB numbers stable over that same period have something wrong with them? Only if you don't consider the numbers coming off IB, which the DWP either doesn't count or they don't publish. They certainly don't hype it like they do the figures favourable to politicians. The decrease in intake over time isn't sufficient by itself to explain why IB remained stable since 1995; the numbers coming off it must have been around 120,000. I will have to either dig up the official figures or work it out based on the data table.

But it's no wonder the press release regarding Aberdeen and Burnley do not mention the group who 'stopped their claim before assessment' as there would have been no new IB claimants when it started in 2010 because new claims were halted two years earlier. Without new claimants, the figures for 'stopped claim before assessment' would have been too low to sling the tabloids some bait to rage against people 'fiddling the system'. Now looking at the figures for ESA claimants in the April press release (I did grab those figures before it disappeared) the percentage given for the 'closed claim before assessment group is 36%. Well the figure isn't very useful unless we know how long it takes to get an assessment so let's....what. What. WHAT?!?

EDIT: I have since heard that the expected waiting time for an assessment for each client is 12-13 weeks. That is some important context to remember for these graphs.

A breakdown of ESA claimants by stage of assessment looks like this:
Click to enlarge
Ok, so did we suddenly get a big influx of ESA claims creating a backlog during Autumn last year?

Click to- oh what's the point. You know by now
Note: the graph is incomplete because until February 2010 only the total claims was counted, meaning all were in the 'Unknown' category, then some bright spark at the DWP decided counting the actual distribution of claimants would be a good idea. I suspect though that this was simply because they had been asked by a Labour minister to get the figures required to do the 'see how many people don't really need it' tripe. The Coalition picked up where they left off. The issue here is that as far back as the available data goes; the majority of ESA claimants have always been in the Assessment phase. As ESA claimants went up now that IB was no longer available, the Assessment phase has not proportionally gone down and almost no one makes it into the Support group. Bare in mind that those in the Assessment phase do not receive ESA-level of benefits, but the same as Jobseekers Allowance.

There have been reports on blogs and in articles that people with terminal illnesses or significant difficulties have been wrongly found 'fit for work' and placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) or denied ESA completely they have then appealed, gone to tribunal and won. But then sometimes just weeks later they are told they must be assessed again.

Case file #4 finds that the figures lend credence to these claims: these people are never allowed to leave the Assessment group until they are worn down and give up. That is why the WRAG grows faster than any other group and the Assessment phase figure hardly shrinks proportionally to the intake of total claimants. I'm certain that the orange Support group line will never, ever catch up to the purple Assessment phase line. This can only be hidden for so long, so it could be that the DWP press releases making claims about people who 'dropped their claim before assessment was complete or assessment still in process' have disappeared because what they really mean is that 'these people were in the assessment phase when they dropped their claim'. This gives the misleading impression that none of the drop-outs have been assessed, when really they could have been trapped on a cycle of repeat assessments for months. 

The DWP must be made to clarify what is meant by 'claim closed before assessment complete' because the figures don't square unless the accusations made by eligible claimants are true. 


  1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/apr-2011/dwp043-11.shtml

  2. As you say does not make a difference to your points .Always enjoy reading these.

  3. When I make errors like that though I think given the factual nature of my blog I need to show it so when I look back on old posts I don't forget them. Means future posts will be improved from the outset.