Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Case #1: Why He Was Always A Quiet Man

We're going to talk about thick people today. Yes, I'm very mean, but they're too thick to notice so don't worry, this won't hurt them. But we all know someone who is a bit slow on the up-take and not because of some audio or language processing delay, I mean their ability to grasp complex or abstract concepts is so in deficit that when they try to be clever, they end up saying something so stupid that temporarily, you also become stupid whilst you try to work out what sense it's supposed to make. A little while ago someone tweeted that they knew a person who works for the Secretary of State for Welfare, Iain Duncan-Smith. What they had been told was that the man was quite challenged, or 'thick as a plank'. The thought had never occurred to me before. Current ideas about the reasons for welfare reform included pure maliciousness, good intentions blinded by ideology and indifferent politics seeking good publicity. Now I can add 'they're just a bit thick' to the list after Iain Duncan-Smith went and confirmed the Twitter rumour.

I have not been able to find figures for the actual number of benefit fraud cases prosecuted each year, they don't seem to be published anywhere but I am glad that now they have been mentioned in Parliament they should show up on the DWP site soon. I note however that Duncan-Smith is using a slightly revised version of the figure touted on Panorama: Britain On The Fiddle a few weeks ago. It should be noted that the figure of £3.1 billion came out of the blue, it is not a DWP figure(unless they've published something new that I've not noticed) and even caught FullFact.org off-guard. The BBC may even have breached their own guidelines(again) by using it; it came from a single uncorroborated source which was Jim Gee at The Centre of Counter Fraud Services (I've not heard of them either) who I think was interviewed in the programme. The key part of their name is 'services', so they have a conflict of interest regarding giving accurate as opposed to inflated figures for fraud. Apparently it isn't possible to actually check their figures either and FullFact tried, they really tried. There is an Audit Commission report that does suggest fraud incidence may be significantly higher than fraud prevalence, but I still need to get round to reading it. However, I highly doubt it on the basis that Labour (who were more hostile to benefit claimants than any government that came before them) swelled the numbers of benefit fraud investigators yet there was no big increase in the number of frauds being caught.

But do you know what does increase the number of frauds being caught? An increase in overall benefits being claimed and that is what has happened. In the preliminary report for 2010/11, the increase in expenditure lost to fraud for DWP benefits(does not include those administered by HRMC like Tax Credits etc) has gone from £1.1 billion in 2009/10 to £1.2 billion in 2010/11. Iain Duncan-Smith makes a big deal out of this: it's an extra £100 million in overpayments detected. But maybe someone in the Secretary's office should have pointed him to the overall percentage of 0.8% expenditure for fraud, it's the same for both years. So what changed? The number of people claiming benefits, it went up. There are some minor changes among the individual percentages for each benefit, with JSA being the largest at a 0.5% increase in fraud prevalence, but two things must be noted: first that many of these cases will be pending appeals, prosecutions or outright being played by the system even if their claim was legitimate. Second, that the Coalition government has been cavalier about the possibility of hurting other claimants in the pursuit of the tiny number of frauds, increasing sanction quotas and generally lots of other ill-advised stuff. But in essence, the increase seems to mostly come form there simply being more overall benefit claimants. Duncan-Smith wants us to believe that his government (other than increasing unemployment) has achieved the increase of £100 million detected fraud by some ingenious decision-making. Worse still, he probably actually believes this is true.

As the Labour Party is now a subject of Case File #1, I can only assume that their inability to properly scrutinise a man only slightly more informed than the Prime Minister about welfare comes from their agreement with virtually everything the Coalition believes about welfare.

Case File #1 is numbed by the stupid.


  1. They are massaging,sorry sensibly delaying the final estimates-http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=news#postpub

    What did IDS say about the "increased fraud" as the preliminary estimates are based on last years taking into account the increased numbers/amounts-it states this in the "body" of the statistics-doesn't he even attempt to listen/read any of his officials?

  2. He was trotting out the 120,000 households where 'no one has worked' for the longest time despite that report specifically warning that interpretation should not be made.

    I have a suspicion that ministers don't actually read the reports; they get their staff to comb through them with instructions to look for things to 'use' rather than to inform decision-making.

  3. To put it bluntly ,this work/out of work distinction is getting on my tits-I,like many was in paid employment but claimed CA as I wanted to help my wife who was disabled and ill(after thirty years of us both working) and classified as "out of work".Now,I happen to not be in paid employment as it was becoming too much and unfair towards my wife to "combine" these "roles" apparently we are both sitting at home not doing anything.When I was "working" full-time I was doing half of what I do now-it is all crap.

  4. Agree that IDS is not particularly clever-this shines through when he is questioned at DWP select commitees,where even with two advisors he struggles with the basics,Freud has about four people furnishing him with information constantly during debates,but I believe he is misanthropic but feigns ignorance.

  5. Maria Miller also claims that the Personal Capability Assessment had less successful appeals than the Work Capability Assessment, though she doesn't go into specifics she seems to be depending on a proportional percentage of them. About 60% of appeals against a PCA decision for Incapacity Benefit were successful and this rose to 70% with representation, just like with WCA appeals.

    The most recent table I could find giving details for numbers of appeals lodged for each benefit is here: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/appeals/index.php?page=appeals_quarterly_mar06

    In the quarter ending March 2006, appeals lodged were 14,895 which is a 1,000 rise from the previous March. 8,740 appeals were cleared to proceed by oral hearings and 2,925 were cleared by paper-only hearings. 11,665 cleared in total. If we assume the upward trend is consistent, then we could multiply the quarterly figure by 4x, adding an extra 250 for the remaining quarters and we still don't get anywhere near the number of appeals that are being lodged against WCA-led ESA decisions.

    Miller is not comparing like with like.

  6. Miller is a serial misuser of statistics-the trouble is ,not people are aware/investigate them she just endlessly repeats "70% of DLA are receiving them indefinately"etc(akin to IDS and workless households")-the headline is made-the mantra becomes "true" and by implication "ripe for reform"-although it appears they are not removing DLA mobility for residents as the "overlap" mantra was shot to pieces.Of course,this does not necessarilly mean they will not attempt to make "savings" as it changes to PIP

  7. http://www.scope.org.uk/news/government-set-reverse-decision-on-mobility-component

  8. I've heard. Saw it on BenefitScroungingScum but told Kaliya that it doesn't really matter: the government never needed to actually put this in the bill in order to implement it.

    The right for care home residents to claim DLA Mobility comes from a tribunal precedent, but I have been unable to get answers anywhere if the case law history for DLA will be preserved and carried on over to PIP. If it doesn't, then Iain Duncan-Smith can simply decide to exclude care home residents with a stroke of a pen because they will be back to being considered 'hospitalised' and therefore ineligible for DLA.

  9. In other news, the DWP tabulation tool has been updated for May 2011 and now the ESA table includes an option to view how many claimants are 'new' and how many are IB-ESA transitions.

    Whilst there is still some confusion over whether the roll-out of the transition began at the end of February or in April, the figure available for the number of former IB claimants moved to ESA is a grant total of: 880.

    Remember, it was expected that they would be assessing 11,000 each week as a result of the increase in caseload. I've seen the original source for that figure somewhere and trying to look for it.

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  11. I would be interested to know what people here think of the CarerWatch take on ESA?

    This is our take on it going back two years.


    We have opposed ESA from the beginning. We don't think the design is fit for purpose.