Monday, 12 December 2011

Case #3: Interns Should Not Argue With Autistics

The BBC finally sent me the following response to my complaint, which given the length of time it has taken them to 'research' and get back to me compared to how long it took me to research and get back to them, makes me wonder why I am jobless and people like this are not. Unless this is an unpaid and untrained clueless intern.

Dear Mr Dixon

Reference CAS-1085424-L6T1N8

Thank you for your continued patience while we deal with your complaint.

We understand you were unhappy with our initial response, and we have forwarded your concerns with the production team for this programme.

They explain that it is difficult to respond to feedback which makes criticism of a programme on the basis of material not included or potential alternative contributors not interviewed. While we could, undoubtedly, have spoken with others every programme has a fixed production period and is transmitted within a slot of fixed duration.

As a result decisions have to be made as to what and who to include. Our belief is that the programme as transmitted provided a comprehensive overview of the proposed reforms to the Welfare system and that the experts and ordinary people interviewed held a range of views which we presented within a balanced examination of the proposed reforms and their potential impacts.

The claim, made near the start of the Programme that "the benefits bill" has risen by "nearly £60 billion, was drawn from a speech made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, when he launched the Welfare Reform Bill on 17th February, 2011. Mr. Cameron noted in his speech that, "We're also doing something no government has done before - and that is get to grips with the cost of welfare. Over the past ten years that bill increased by £56bn".

The programme was, in large part, an examination of the impact of the reforms Mr. Cameron announced that day. The "nearly £60 billion" claim related to the overall costs of the benefits system, not to the number of claims made. The purpose of the programme was to examine welfare reform and the cost of welfare in the context of the Government's stated intention to cut over £5billion from the benefits budget.

The people John Humphrys encountered during his investigation into welfare reform were intended to put the reforms and their impact into context. Splott was selected as a location because John Humphrys had been born and raised in the area, within a working class family, and he was using his personal experience to illustrate a shift in attitudes and expectations over the last 40 years. John Humphrys entered a Cardiff city centre Job Centre and looked on screen at "Today's Local Jobs". While one of those displayed onscreen was actually in Austria (which viewers could easily see) the overwhelming majority were in Cardiff and all had been classified as "Local Jobs" by the Job Centre. The Job Centre in Cardiff confirmed that in September of 2011 there had been 1,600 jobs advertised in Cardiff - we did not claim that these were all full time jobs, we simply reported the overall number of vacancies advertised.

You also query why we did not speak with the Citizens Advice Bureau. Again, it is very difficult to respond to complaints about material not included in a programme but we would stress that a range of contributors were included, both experts and non-expert. We do not agree with your characterisation of the programmes contributors as, "either a local or national government employee, non-UK resident or a comical stereotype". We spoke to a range of experts and non-experts and they held a range of views which we presented within a balanced examination of the proposed Welfare Reforms and their potential impacts. In some parts of the programme - such as the visit to the Job Centre in Cardiff - it is made clear that there are jobs available.

In other parts - such as the visit to a job club in Middlesborough - it is also made clear that while jobs are advertised they are often very difficult to secure with many individuals seeking the same opportunities, often sending multiple applications and gaining no response. Regarding Dr. Fisher's contribution to the programme, she was not providing a statistical analysis nor was she presented as such. She was speaking as a GP with frontline experience of the reforms and their impact. The sequence with Dr. Fisher was followed by John Humphrys talking with Prof. Steve Fothergill of Sheffield Hallam University who is a statistician, who was presented within the programme as such and who then discussed in some detail how various governments had used statistics regarding welfare claimants to obscure the true levels of unemployment. Those claiming Disability Allowance were not mentioned because this sequence was about Incapacity Benefit and its replacement, Employment Support Allowance.

You also query the statement that, "your local doctor no longer has the final say." on who receives ESA. Claims for Incapacity Benefit were ultimately approved or not approved by the DWP but the weight afforded to a GP's opinion of a patient's state of health and suitability for work was much greater than it now is under ESA. Under ESA more stringent tests and independent assessment have been introduced - a point made very clear in the programme.

You also point out the reference in the programme to 11,000 claimants being assessed per week under the new system. The 11,000 figure was drawn from Hansard, specifically a statement made by the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, Chris Grayling MP: "From May we will be processing the full case load of around 11,000 cases per week. This steady ramp up of activity will ensure that Jobcentre Plus and its partners are ready and can deal with the volume of cases as it builds."

If you believe a serious and specific breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines has occurred here, and you wish to pursue this complaint further, you can contact the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit, within 20 working days, and they will carry out an independent investigation.

You can write to them at the following address:

Editorial Complaints Unit

Room 5170

White City

201 Wood Lane

London W12 7TS

Alternatively you can e-mail the Unit at the address:, but please note that complaints submitted via e-mail must include a postal address as ECU findings are sent by letter.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards

Patrick Clyde

I'll write a reply to send tonight and post it tomorrow.  But I find much of the reasoning used here to be of such a poor standard that combined with the excessive delays supposedly to 'research' these things that this seems to be deliberate stalling intended to make a complainant give up before it gets as far as the BBC Trust. Given the nature of these responses, I will be demanding that a senior BBC manager write the next response; the key step that if the matter is not resolved then, it becomes a legitimate matter to take to the Trust.


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  6. I just, what, isn't it, the headline makes, my brain, the point? Huh?

    I find myself being reminded that who ever wrote that, they are probably being paid to.

  7. I've read about this imaging in New Scientist. They were looking at accuracies of around 80%, IIRC. No way that could ever be considered valid in relation to benefit claims, surely?