A New Place Of Exile

Richard Hutton

Category: Welfare and Disability

Some of the cases which illustrate the truth of ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

A number of media commentators have expressed doubts about the accuracy of the storyline in Ken Loach’s recently released film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’; which depicts a man left disabled by a heart-attack, struggling to gain access to social security, due to a variety of bureaucratic obstructions which bedevil the benefit system.

Moreover, Iain Duncan Smith – the key government minister responsible for implementing reforms to social security, since 2010 – openly repudiated the movie’s validity; describing it as an unrealistic and unfair portrayal.

In reality, there has been a catalogue of individual cases which demonstrate that the film’s depiction of the difficulties disabled people encounter, when trying to access benefits, are not only real, but systemic.

The following list does not represent the entirety of these cases – only some of the ones which have been reported in the media.

 

5th October 2010

“I say to those watching today and who are genuinely sick, disabled or are retired. You have nothing to fear…This means we will have enough resources to provide peace of mind to the very vulnerable. This matters to us. This government and this party don’t regard caring for the needy as a burden. It is a proud duty to provide financial security to the most vulnerable members of our society and this will not change. This is our contract with the most vulnerable”.

– Iain Duncan Smith, State Secretary for Work and Pensions.

 

 

2011

22nd May 2011

‘Stress of Tory benefits tests killed our dad, family claims’

“A dad-of-two was killed by the stress of facing the ­Government’s tough new medical test for benefit claimants, say his grieving family. David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart ­attack the night before his medical as he scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement. He had claimed incapacity benefit for three years after doctors ordered him to stop ­working following a heart attack and ­several strokes.

His widow Sandra, 57, said being lumped in with ‘dole scroungers’ and the fear of ­financial hardship had a­ ­devastating effect. David – who worked for 40 years as a miner and telecoms engineer – had ­already gone through a stressful eight-month appeal process to keep his £91-a-week ­benefits” (Mirror).

 

21st June 2011

‘Jobseeker took own life’

“A man with mental health problems who was worried about benefit cuts killed himself while he was searching for a job on the south coast, an inquest heard. Paul Willcoxson, 33, was found hanging in Pignals Enclosure, near Hollands Wood campsite, Lyndhurst, by walkers on April 14…a suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which he expressed concerns about Government cuts, Southampton Coroner’s Court heard” (Daily Echo)

 

12th July 2011

‘Woman who drowned in drain was upset about health check’

“A woman found dead in a drain had been worried about attending a medical appointment to assess disability benefits, an inquest heard. The body of Elaine Christian, 57, was found in Holderness Drain by a mother returning from a school run. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than ten self-inflicted cuts on her wrists.

The inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been worrying about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits. Her spiralling health problems meant she had to give up her job at Cooplands bakery in Greenwich Avenue, where she was described as a cheerful, hardworking and trusted staff member. Her husband Robert’s model shop business in Holderness Road, east Hull, had recently collapsed, plunging the couple into financial difficulties. As a result, the couple were being forced to sell Mrs Christian’s childhood home in Staveley Road, Bilton Grange” (Hull Daily Mail)

 

24th July 2011

‘Atos case study: Larry Newman’

“Larry Newman was assessed by an Atos staff member and awarded zero points. To qualify for sickness benefit he needed 15. He died from lung problems soon after” (Guardian)

 

25th August 2011

‘Southfields dad committed suicide after housing benefit cut’

“A desperate man who lined up three kitchen knives before stabbing himself twice in the heart, blamed cuts in housing benefit. Unemployed Richard Sanderson took his own life after writing three suicide notes which were laid out neatly on a bed in a meticulously planned act…

Mr Sanderson, who said he could not face the thought of his family being homeless, stabbed himself twice in the heart with a kitchen knife on May 29 at home in Augustus Road, Southfields, after years of being unable to find work finally took its toll, an inquest heard.”

According to the Coroner: “his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would be at risk of having nowhere to live, and being ordered to give up his training course because of the Job Centre’s rules” (Wandsworth Guardian)

 

9th November 2011

‘Army veteran and his wife die in tragic “suicide pact” after becoming “too poor to live through the winter”‘

“A newly married couple forced to live on £57 a week killed themselves in despair after being ‘abandoned’ by social services, their friends claimed yesterday. The bodies of Mark and Helen Mullins were found lying side by side at their run-down home in an apparent suicide pact. News of the tragedy emerged yesterday as friends told how they had been forced to live ‘hand to mouth’, making a weekly 12-mile trip to a soup kitchen on foot after Mrs Mullins’ benefits were stopped 18 months ago” (Daily Mail).

The couple had been interviewed, the previous year; at a Coventry soup kitchen which they depended upon. Mark Mullins was quoted saying that:

“The job centre decided Helen couldn’t sign on as she was incapable of employment, as she has no literacy and numeracy skills. However the incapacity people wouldn’t recognise her disabilities until she has been properly diagnosed, which led to month after month of seeing specialists, we’re in a catch 22 situation” (Coventry Telegraph).

 

2012

23rd February 2012

‘Benefits man found hanged, inquest heard’

“A man who had ‘significant worries’ was found hanging in his home by a neighbour, a Burnley inquest heard…Neighbour Kevin Martin said the last time he saw Mr Monk he was worried that his benefits had been cut” (Lancashire Telegraph)

 

24th April 2012 

‘Norwich man killed himself “over back-to-work fears”‘

“A schizophrenic city man who was turning his life around killed himself after becoming worried at having to return to work, an inquest heard. Martin Rust, 36, was declared fit to work following a Department of Work and Pensions assessment in September, two months before he was found dead at his home in Parmentergate Court in the city centre on November 21…

Coroner William Armstrong said the DWP’s decision “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect”, recording that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness” (Norwich Evening News).

 

30th April 2012

‘Man with life-threatening blood clots and open leg ulcers loses benefits after job centre labels him fit for work’

“A man who is suffering from horrendous blood clots and open ulcers has lost his disability benefits – after job centre doctors labelled him fit for work. James Major, 33, struggles to walk, and has been told by specialists at two hospitals he would be risking his life if he went back to work. ‘I started claiming sick benefit because I obviously couldn’t work. After this I went for a medical at the Job Centre and failed it, but the doctor there said I was fit enough to work. At the time I could only walk with crutches. ‘I was told that I would have to claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). But when I went to sign up for JSA, the staff there said I was clearly not able to work so I couldn’t claim. ‘I didn’t have a choice but to go back to sea.’

But being on his feet all the time only worsened his condition, and he went on to develop septicaemia. After his second dash back to land, he tried to claim again, but was told the same as he was the previous time. ‘I was advised to take legal action because of the situation and we won at a tribunal. I was ecstatic and we also got some money backdated.’ Although the situation was resolved for a few months, Mr Major then had to go for a routine medical review which once again deemed him fit for work. He added: ‘But I failed the medical and I am now back at square one. I now have to appeal again like the first time round” (Daily Mail).

 

17th May 2012

‘Dad’s fight for justice after son died six weeks after his benefits were cut’

“A dad whose son died of pneumonia just six weeks after his incapacity benefits were axed is fighting to have the decision overturned. Mark Scott, 46, who suffered from anxiety, epilepsy and chronic alcoholism, was left penniless when jobcentre doctors said he was fit to work.

He died on January 26 in the Southport flat where he lived alone. Dad Cliff, from Formby, told the ECHO that his son sank into a “deep depression” after being stripped of the disability living allowance and housing benefit in December” (Liverpool Echo).

 

31st May 2012:

‘Father who suffered 14 heart attacks “fit for work”‘.

“ONE of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients has hit out at the UK Government’s ‘Nazi’ tactics after being declared fit to work in a scheme designed to get more people off incapacity benefit.

Paul Mickleburgh, 53, has undergone a series of operations over the past 33 years, including four failed transplants, and has suffered 14 heart attacks.

The father-of-three says he is the victim of changes which involve transferring tens of thousands of Scots claimants off incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance and on to the new Employment and Support Allowance” (Herald Scotland).

 

17th June 2012

‘My ill wife had to fight for benefits up until she died – a woman who spent two years fighting to stop her disability benefits from being taken away has died just weeks after finally winning her battle against bureaucrats’.

“Karen Sherlock, 44, was declared fit to work in 2010 even though her eyesight was failing and she needed a kidney transplant. Her husband Nigel said it was a disgrace she was refused benefits and said her battle finally took its toll on her health.

Although she struggled to get out of bed, it was deemed she could work by officials at Atos Healthcare, which assesses benefits claimants on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions. Last year she lost an appeal against the decision but continued her campaign. In April her £96-a-week benefits were stopped, plunging her into despair as her health deteriorated.

Although the decision was effectively overturned a few weeks ago when she was granted Employment and Support Allowance, she died on June 8” (Express).

 

19th June 2012

‘Inquest hears of Cumbrian dad’s health benefits worries’

“Fears over losing his incapacity benefits and concerns about his health led a Whitehaven father-of-two to take his own life, an inquest has ruled. Carl Payne, 42, was found dead in remote woodland in Ennerdale on August 7 last year having taken a fatal overdose. A message saying “sorry, I love you” to his family was found in his pocket.

An inquest heard yesterday that Mr Payne, of Hilltop Road, Kells, was struggling with various medical conditions which prevented him from working. He was also anxious at having received a letter from Jobcentre Plus to inform him that the government was to carry out a national review of the benefits system….Coroner David Roberts concluded: “It is clear that he was worried that his benefits would be affected, and although he had no immediate financial worries and plenty of family support, he was perhaps concerned about depending too much on his family” (News & Star)

 

4th July 2012

‘Birmingham dad dies of heart condition after being ruled “fit for work”‘

“A Birmingham dad died from a serious heart condition – weeks after Government assessors stopped his benefits and ruled he was fit for work. Paul Turner, 52, from Erdington, was ordered to find a job in February following a medical review with doctors. But he died on April 2 from ischaemic heart disease – caused, his family claim, by the stress of losing his benefits.

The dad-of-one was medically retired from his job as a stores manager for West Midlands Travel in 2000 after he suffered a heart attack. He later had to undergo a double bypass because of the condition. Mr Turner, who also had angina, was claiming around £400 per month incapacity benefit until he was called in for a review at the Midlands Disability Benefits Centre in Five Ways in January. Three weeks later he received a letter stating he was not entitled to the new Employment and Support Allowance, the controversial new payment that has replaced Incapacity Benefit” (Birmingham Mail).

 

30th July 2012

‘Disability tests “sending sick and disabled back to work”‘

“Stephen Hill was sent to his first Work Capability Assessment in 2010 when he gave up his job as a sandwich delivery man after being referred for tests on his heart. His wife Denise, who was with him at the assessment, said: “She checked him out. She did his blood pressure and his heart and said to see a doctor as soon as possible.” Despite the assessor telling Mr Hill to seek urgent medical advice, he was still found fit for work. In the meantime doctors had diagnosed him with heart failure. He won his appeal but he was ordered to attend another assessment.

“He got a letter for another medical and I couldn’t believe it,” said Mrs Hill. “He’d got to go for a medical when he was waiting for a heart operation.” But he was again declared fit for work, with the assessor declaring: “Significant disability due to cardiovascular problems seems unlikely.”

Mr Hill died of a heart attack five weeks later (Telegraph).

 

31st August 2012

‘Benefits appeal woman Cecilia Burns from Strabane has died’

“A cancer sufferer, who had her benefits cut by government officials who said she was fit to work, has died. Cecilia Burns, 51, from Strabane, County Tyrone, had started a campaign in February to have the decision overturned. Ms Burns had her benefits cut after she was assessed by government contractor Atos Healthcare. She had her benefits reinstated just a few weeks ago but died on Monday” (BBC)

 

12th September 2012

‘Mining union slams disability and sickness benefit tests’

““A mining union has branded disability and sick benefit tests a “scandal” after a woman with severe health problems was judged fit for work…The latest case involves a 55-year-old miner’s wife from the Easington area, who has not been named, who was given zero disability points following her 40-minute assessment, despite suffering from sight problems, arthritis in the spine and depression. However, on appeal, which the woman had to wait 11 months for, the former machinist was awarded 24 points by the tribunal” (Sunderland Echo).

 

14th Sepember 2012

‘Benefits cuts blamed for son’s fatal seizure’

“The Government is being blamed over the death of a 29-year-old Oldham epileptic who suffered a massive seizure his family says was caused by the stress of having his disability benefits cut. Colin Traynor suffered grand mal epilepsy from the age of 14 months and despite medication the condition was never controlled, Oldham West and Royton MP Michael Meacher told the Commons. Mr Traynor was assessed as fit for work in the Government’s overhaul of the benefits system, but died less than four months later” (Oldham Chronicle)

 

1st November 2012

‘Atos benefits bullies killed my sick dad, says devastated Kieran, 13’

““Kieran McArdle told the Daily Record in a harrowing letter how his father Brian, 57, collapsed and died the day after his disability benefits were stopped. He had been assessed by Atos and deemed “fit for work”.The youngster said a previous stroke on Boxing Day last year had caused a blood clot on Brian’s brain. He was left paralysed down his left side, unable to speak properly, blind in one eye and barely able to eat or dress.

But he was still summoned to an Atos “work capability assessment” – part of the Con-Dem Government’s drive to cut billions from the welfare bill. Kieran says he had another stroke days before his appointment because of stress, but was still determined to attend. A month later, former security guard Brian got a letter telling him he would lose his disability benefits on September 26.

Kieran said his dad’s health went rapidly downhill. He believes constant worry about how he would survive without the cash he needed robbed Brian of the will to live. The day after his benefits were stopped, Brian collapsed and died in the street near his home in Larkhall, Lanarkshire. He had suffered a heart attack” (Daily Record).

 

2013

31st January 2013

‘Atos scandal: Man found fit to work despite peeling bones’

“Man found fit to work despite peeling bones: Kenny Nicol was passed as fit to work, even though after seven operations bits of his bone still peel into his flesh…He scored zero on his new Department for Work and Pensions test, carried out by Atos. The former oil worker, of Buckie, Aberdeenshire, can’t walk further than 100 yards without his joints swelling and suffers constant pain in his shoulders, hips, knees and hands” (Daily Record).

 

13th February 2013

‘St Agnes man judged fit to work and then found dead within a year’

“A chronic alcoholic who had previously suffered two broken hips and used a walking frame was told he was fit to work in a benefits test. Nine months later, John McGinty was dead. He was found at home by his son, surrounded by around 100 empty Special Brew cans” (West Briton).

 

25th February 2013

‘Blind woman ordered back to work wins benefits battle’

“A blind woman has won a fight to have her benefits reinstated after she was told to get a job. Margaret Allen had to give up work because of her condition but was called up to a controversial ‘fit-to-work’ assessment – part of the government’s overhaul of the welfare system. The 49-year-old has progressive retinitis pigmentosa – a degenerative incurable disorder – and is registered blind. But an assessor ruled that she was not eligible for help and told her she must go back to work…“The assessor sat there wiggling his fingers in front of my eyes to test me. I took along my blind certificate which has detailed information on it and asked if they wanted to see it – but they weren’t interested” (Manchester Evening News)

 

25th February 2013

‘Disabled man in “constant pain” told he is fit for work’

“A Camberley man who has been housebound for more than two years with crippling medical problems has been told by the Government he is fit to work. Kelvin Crane, 50, was shocked to receive the news from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when he was called in for a routine assessment of his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit on October 25 at Camberley Job Centre. He was told, despite four heart attacks, two strokes and the loss of his right leg, that he was considered to have ‘limited capability for work’ after an assessment of his circumstances on September 12, which could potentially require him to seek employment” (Get Surrey).

 

16th March 2013

‘Benefits hell for Thalidomide patient’

“A thalidomide victim is losing her disability benefits because welfare officials say she is fit enough to work. Martine White, 50, has also had brain surgery and is due to undergo a spine operation. She was stunned when the Department for Work and Pensions said her benefits were stopping as she could not prove she was unfit to work” (Daily Star).

 

25th March 2013

‘Anxiety over Atos fit-for-work test brings on father’s heart attack’

“A dad who started feeling seriously unwell during his interview with Atos assessors – and suffered a massive heart attack the next day – has been deemed fit to work. Jim Elliott says he was struggling to breathe, sweating and had chest pains during his 20-minute work capability assessment earlier this month. He was given a glass of water – but then the assessors simply pressed on with the interview” (Daily Record).

 

17th April 2013

‘Benefits withdrawal led to man’s suicide’

“A former farm labourer shot himself after learning that his benefits were being stopped, an inquest heard. Nicholas Peter Barker, of Bridge Farm Close, Helmsley, was found dead in his front garden with a shotgun at his feet by his neighbour on December 10 last year”. He had been left with paralysis, after he suffered a brain haemorrhage; but did not gain the required number of points during his work capability assessment to qualify for continued support (Gazette Herald).

 

13th May 2013

‘Suicide tragedy gran “spent winter without heating to save money”‘

“A grandmother thought to have killed herself over the Government’s ‘bedroom tax ‘ had already spent the winter without heating to save cash, neighbours said.” Stephanie Bottrill “was distraught at moving out of her home of 18 years because she could not afford the extra £20-a-week in rent needed after her housing benefit was cut” (Birmingham Mail)

 

28th July 2013

‘I’m Proud of our welfare reforms’

“This government has embarked on one of the most aggressive programmes of welfare reform Britain has ever seen, and we already have a proud record of achievement…I don’t apologise for attempting to do what previous governments have shied away from, bringing in major changes to make the welfare state fair to both the people who use it and the taxpayers who pay for it. We have been ambitious and will continue to push ahead with these reforms, but we will do so in a safe and responsible way” – Iain Duncan Smith (Guardian)

 

10th August 2013

‘Man collapsed but still “fit for work”‘

“John Flanagan, 64, has a degenerating spine, is unable to stand or walk far, heart disease and problems with his nervous system but was told by benefits test firm Atos that he could do a job. Six weeks after the assessment Mr Flanagan collapsed due to problems with his nervous system and was rushed to hospital” (Derbyshire Times)

 

13th August 2013

‘Former Darlington nurse in fitness to work dispute’

“A former nurse who suffers from a chronic lung condition has hit out at Government officials for cutting his benefits after he was deemed fit for work. Michael Easby, from Darlington, was forced to give up work as an accident and emergency nurse last year, when he was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).

The 51-year-old was also recently diagnosed with a bowel tumour as well as suffering from post-traumatic stress following an assault during his time as a nurse at Darlington Memorial Hospital…he was declared fit to work last year, following an assessment on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions” (Northern Echo).

 

15th August 2013

‘Haunted by bedroom tax debt torment’

“A man saddled with extra debt after a hike in his rent because of the bedroom tax took his own life, an inquest heard. Bolton Coroner’s Court was told John Walker, from Marsh Green, was found hanged at his home by his former partner Susan Martin in May after she went to his home as he had sounded upset and low during their phone conversations.

The court heard Mr Walker, 57, had been worried about mounting financial problems with loans and his credit card due to being out of work, and had also disagreed with the JobCentre who had told him he was fit to work despite his complaints of an injury to his back” (Wigan Today)

 

31st August 2013:

‘Chell stroke victim loses benefits cut battle’

“Stroke victim Karen Cotton has had her benefits halved – despite being left with mobility problems after a brain operation. Since the cash was pulled last year the mother-of-two and her husband David have been forced to sell their home to help pay the bills” (Stoke Sentinel).

 

3rd September 2013

‘Crawley man killed himself after losing benefits’

“Unemployed electrician Lee Robinson, 39, took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax benefit was taken away. He is thought to be the first person in Sussex whose suicide is officially linked to recent benefits cuts…

When benefits changes were introduced by the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) Mr Robinson lost his automatic entitlement to employment support allowance (ESA). He also struggled with depression, was taking antidepressants and had some contact with mental health services in Crawley” (The Argus)

 

13th September 2013

‘Scathing Town Hall report reveals new threat to disabled people who fought to save benefits payments’

Asim Emin “snapped the ligaments in his knee 10 years ago playing football, when he was 40. He says he has had six operations – each followed by six months of physiotherapy – to fix it, but each time it goes again.

He is unable to walk without a stick, and a decade of putting his weight on one side has led to back and nerve problems. As a result he lost his job as a delivery driver, became depressed and turned to alcohol, and says he is now dependent. “I didn’t want to go out and face people,” he says.

In 2011, he applied, for the first time, for disability living allowance, and was awarded the higher level for both care and transport. “My life immediately improved,” he said. “I was able to buy myself a fridge, a television and a cooker. Most importantly, I was able to buy a small car, which had to be especially adapted at the factory for me. “That meant I was able to get out and about, to hospital appointments and the shops. I stopped drinking.”

Then the government’s new reforms came in and he was assessed by ATOS. “I had MRI scans of my knee and back and a letter from my doctor,” he says. “But they sent a doctor from abroad who said I was able to run and walk and play. It’s all lies. So they took the car away and stopped my benefits” (Islington Tribune).

 

18th September 2013

‘Registered disabled – but polio sufferer is ‘fit to work”

“A disabled man who spent years wearing leg braces and has suffered mobility difficulties ever since has reacted with dismay to being deemed fit to work under the Government’s reassessment scheme. Despite being registered disabled, Tony Holley…scored zero out of 15 points in the Work Capability Assessment process” (Western Morning News).

 

22nd September 2013

‘Heartbroken dad blames benefits axemen for driving his ill son to commit suicide’

“David Barr, 28, threw himself from the Forth Road Bridge after learning the decision to stop his benefit had been upheld. An Atos assessor had ruled David was fit to work despite being on anti-psychotic sedatives, sleeping tablets and antidepressants. His condition was recorded on a medical assessment as “anxiety and depression”. But his dad David snr, 57, said he had a host of problems including sleeplessness, memory loss and paranoia – and believes he may have been a schizophrenic” (Daily Record).

 

26th September 2013

‘Retired blind man is ‘fit for work”

“A blind man who was forced to take early retirement 12 years ago was left in shock when he was told he is now fit to return to work. Richard Alcock, of Craven Street, Bury, attended an assessment which ruled he was no longer entitled to employment support allowance” (Bury Times)

 

7th October 2013

‘Grieving son blasts benefit cuts: My dad looked like a concentration camp prisoner before he died’

“A grieving son whose father looked like a ‘concentration camp prisoner’ after his benefits were slashed has blamed Coalition cuts for his death. Ian Carress scored zero points in a controversial government welfare test which ordered him back to work despite the 43-year-old suffering a catalogue of health problems including failing eyesight and the nerves in his arms being removed.

In the last 12 months of his life, the former school caretaker’s weight plummeted and he grew so thin the bones on his shoulder were visible to his shocked family. Ten months after his Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which cut his fortnightly state pay from around £130 to just £80, father-of-one Mr Carress, from Bebington, Merseyside, had died” (Mirror).

 

9th October 2013

‘Sneinton man overdoses after benefits stopped’

“A 47-year-old man overdosed on a cocktail of drugs after he had his benefits stopped because he was not given a proper medical assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions, an inquest heard. Edward Jacques was found dead in his house in Loughborough Avenue, Sneinton, on September 25 last year. He had a history of self harm and depression, which stemmed from physical and emotional abuse as a child, the inquest was told.

Mr Jacques’ family told the Post they considered the decision to stop his benefits was a “major trigger” in a spiral which led him to overdose on heroin, cocaine and alcohol. Mr Jacques was told his benefits of £90-a-week would be stopped on September 18 last year, the same day he took to social networking site Facebook to vent his frustration at Prime Minister David Cameron and Atos – the company which carries out medical assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions” (Nottingham Post).

 

18th October 2013

‘Absolute hell’ after benefits were axed by Atos

“A FORMER school meals worker from Canonbury who is being treated for cancer and heart disease was told she was fit for work after a 20-minute assessment by a nurse. Single mother-of-four Hatije Musa, 48, from Essex Road, lost half of her benefits as a result of the decision by the official working for Atos. As a result she went into serious debt” (Islington Tribune).

 

19th October 2013

‘Man with spinal injuries told he is fit enough to work’

“A former foundry worker who has not worked for 21 years after injuring his back in an industrial accident has been told he is now fit enough to look for a job. Charles Foreman, who is in continual pain and has to use a walking stick, frame or wheelchair to get around, has been told he does not qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), following an assessment by a doctor working for Atos Healthcare on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions” (Leicester Mercury).

 

22nd October 2013

‘Chronic pain woman, 60, told ‘you’re fit to work”

“A Calverton woman who lives in ‘near constant’ pain after breaking her back in four places in a freak accident 28 years ago has hit out after being considered fit for work. Linda Martin-Hacket, 60, of Broadfields, was given incapacity benefit indefinitely after the accident on Front Street, Arnold, where she fell through a grate when she was 32. She had a number of operations to deal with her injuries and takes morphine twice daily to deal with the pain.

But in September this year, she was given a work assessment by Atos to fill in following changes to the benefit system and, to her surprise, Mrs Martin-Hackett was found fit to work and moved to a work-related support group” (Nottingham Post).

 

24th October 2013

’59-year-old declared fit for work – while he has brain surgery’

“A former chef had his sickness benefits stopped — while he was in hospital recovering from emergency brain surgery. Rana Ahmed collapsed with a brain haemorrhage and stroke and had to undergo an urgent operation.
And it was while the 59-year-old from Bolton was recovering at Salford Royal Hospital that a social entitlement tribunal upheld a Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) ruling that he was fit to work.

Mr Ahmed, who collapsed on June 26, had to live off scraps, and at one stage went three weeks without eating, before he turned to the Unemployed Advice Centre (UAC) in Deansgate for help following the tribunal on July 9” (Bolton News)

 

29th October 2013:

‘Four kidney transplants and dialysis three times a week – but dying Derek was still ‘not disabled enough”

“The last time Derek McInally was turned down for part of his disability benefits he waited 13 months for a tribunal. By the time the date arrived, he was in the early stages of recovery from a double kidney transplant.

At his tribunal hearing, the judge looked over the top of his glasses at the lawyer for the Department for Work and Pensions. “He’s dying of kidney disease,” the judge said. “How much more ­disabled do you want?” So in February 2012, Derek’s Disability Living Allowance was reinstated in full.

Since then, his health has deteriorated ­dramatically. In June that year, his kidney transplant failed, and he had to restart dialysis. He now had four failed kidneys inside him, and was ­seriously ill. Dialysis was three times a week for four hours. He was frequently laid out by infections. Yet, incredibly, in December 2012, Derek, 48, was told he had to re-apply again for ­Disability Living Allowance” (Mirror)

 

3rd November 2013

‘Bedroom Tax: Pensioner killed himself over fears he could not afford his home’

“A pensioner hanged himself after telling pals he was worried about how he would afford the Bedroom Tax, the Sunday People reveals. Charles Barden would have been exempt from it due to his age, 74. But he still feared being forced to leave his three-bedroom house by the tax – introduced six months after he died in October last year” (Mirror).

 

2014

13th January 2014

“Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Has the Secretary of State managed to watch programmes such as “Benefits Street” and “On Benefits & Proud”? If so, has he, like me, been struck by the number of people on them who manage to combine complaining about welfare reform with being able to afford to buy copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos, and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television? Does he understand the concerns and irritation of many people who go to work every day and pay their taxes but cannot afford those kinds of luxuries?

Mr Duncan Smith: My hon. Friend is right: many people are shocked by what they see. That is why the public back our welfare reform package, which will get more people back to work and end these abuses. All these abuses date back to the last Government, who had massive spending and trapped people in benefit dependency” (Hansard).

 

24th February 2014

‘Man too ill to attend fit-for-work interview but terrified of losing benefits dies after Atos test’

“A seriously ill man died hours after he was hauled into an Atos fit-for-work assessment. Terry McGarvey knew he wasn’t well enough to attend the hearing, but was terrified his benefits would be stopped if he didn’t turn up. He dragged himself to the assessment but had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance. Terry, 48, died the next day.”

McGarvey  suffered from blood disorder polycytheamia, and liver disease. He died in Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary from pneumonia (Mirror).

 

28th February 2014

‘Vulnerable man starved to death after benefits were cut’

“The family of a man who starved to death four months after his benefits were cut off has called on the government to reform the way it treats people with mental health problems when it assesses their eligibility for benefits.

Mark Wood, 44, who had a number of complex mental health conditions, died at his home last August, months after an Atos fitness-for-work assessment found him fit for work. This assessment triggered a decision by the jobcentre to stop his sickness benefits, leaving him just £40 a week to live on. His housing benefits were stopped at around the same time” (Guardian).

 

22nd July 2014

‘Payday loan firms sent one thousand texts to grandad after he killed himself over debts’

“A tragic grandad who killed himself after his debts to payday loan firms spiralled out of control received 1,000 text messages from them after his death. Ian Jordan, 60, racked up more than £20,000 worth of debt to more than 12 firms after his benefits were slashed. The dad-of-two took his own life on November 22 last year, overdosing on painkillers” (Mirror)

 

27th August 2014

As described by the BBC:

“Diabetic David Clapson, 59, from Stevenage, died from lack of insulin, 18 days after his Jobseeker’s Allowance was suspended in July. His sister, Gill Thompson, said more than 177,000 people had signed a petition backing the family’s calls. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said Mr Clapson had not appealed.

On 2 July, Mr Clapson’s £71.70 a week allowance was stopped for a month, after he missed an appointment with the Government’s Work Programme (GWP) in May. Ms Thompson said he was found dead in his flat on 20 July, with £3.44 in his bank account. She added his electricity card had no credit, meaning the fridge where his insulin was kept chilled, was not working” (BBC).

As described more accurately by the Independent:

“Diabetic David Clapson died two weeks after his benefits were stopped because he missed two appointments. Now his sister wants the DWP to admit they contributed to his death”

“David Clapson, who served as a Lance Corporal in Belfast during the height of the Troubles, passed away in his flat in July 2013 from diabetic ketoacidosis – caused by an acute lack of insulin. His body was found a few metres away from a pile of CVs and he had £3.44 in his bank account” (Independent)

 

20th September 2014

‘Benefits bosses hounded my disabled lover to death – because he went on charity bike ride’

“The family of a man stripped of disability allowance because he did a charity bike ride say ­benefits bosses hounded him to death. Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the ­Department for Works and Pensions. They stopped his allowance, accused him of lying about his condition and demanded £11,000 after learning he had cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End and back to raise £2,000 for Help for Heroes.

The DWP pursued Nathan even after prosecutors dropped a benefits fraud charge against him. Reports by two surgeons said although walking caused him pain, he could ride a bike. The former IT salesman had contracted a flesh-eating bug aged 15 and needed vein transplants. He was forced to give up work at 27” (Mirror).

 

22nd September 2014

‘Man with brain damage and “uncontrolled” epilepsy hanged himself when DWP threatened to cut benefits’

“A man with permanent brain damage and ‘uncontrolled’ epilepsy hanged himself after being ordered to take part in ‘work related activity’ or risk his benefits being cut. Trevor Drakard was panic-stricken at the thought he would have to find a job when he could suffer a severe attack at any time.

The shy 50-year-old suffered from meningitis at five months old which left him brain damaged, causing severe epilepsy first seen when he was just six. He suffered countless attacks throughout his life, never went 10 days without a fit and would fall ‘like a tree’ to the ground.

Despite heavy medication, he was regularly taken to hospital and had suffered a broken nose, cheekbone, jaw, lost his front teeth and split his head open after hitting pavement during attacks. Even disabled employer Remploy – where he worked for six years – deemed his condition so severe he had to leave.

Yet ConDem reforms meant he received a letter saying his Incapacity Benefit was being replaced with £112.05-a-week ‘Employment and Support Allowance’. It stated he had to attend a ‘Work Related Activity Group”, or his benefits could be hit” (Mirror).

 

2015

25th January 2015

‘Atos tell stricken grandad he has to sign on – but he’s had a stroke and can no longer write’

“David Waite, 60, suffers from a string of health problems including brain damage and depression. He was referred to a stroke clinic after taking ill in November, just weeks before he was assessed by Atos. But he was left shocked when examiners told him his benefits were being axed because he was fit for work.

His family say David suffers tremors and shakes and is having more tests to establish his underlying condition. He also suffers from neck pain and diabetes. Despite his poor health, he was told his Employment and Support Allowance was being stopped and he’d need to get a job or sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance” (Daily Record)

 

29th January 2015

‘Boy battling leukaemia fed by foodbanks after Department for Work and Pensions axed his benefits’

“The family of a seven-year-old boy battling leukaemia have been forced to use foodbanks after their benefits were axed. Tommi Miller’s parents received £700 a month to help look after him until he was given the all-clear last April. But when the cancer returned in a more virulent form, Ruth, 39 and Kevin, 42, stopped work to care for their son.

They hoped the Department for Work and Pensions would restart the payments. But officials said No. With no income for six months, the family have relied on foodbanks to eat. They have struggled to pay gas bills, been threatened with eviction and could only celebrate Christmas after friends raised £1,200” (Mirror).

 

6th February 2015

‘The appalling death of a man caught up in benefits nightmare’

“Malcolm Burge, 66, faced a bill of £800 because of a payments mix-up by Newham Council. With a bank balance of only £50, he took the only way out he could see…

A coroner ruled this week that Mr Burge, who like his father before him had worked tending the graves at the City of London Cemetery, committed suicide after a 50 per cent cut in his housing benefit left him ensnared in bureaucracy and begging for help from Newham Borough Council, which was in turn engulfed by its caseload” (Independent).

 

5th March 2015

‘Former Gt Doddington woman killed herself after “constant battle” to receive disability benefit’

“Julia Kelly, of Kingsthorpe, Northampton, committed suicide in November after she had been sent a series of letters from the DWP, including one that demanded she pay back £4,000…

Ms Kelly, who previously worked for Northamptonshire Young Carers, had to give up work in 2010 due to a severe back injury that had grown progressively worse since a car crash, which wasn’t her fault, in 2005. In 2013, Ms Kelly was involved in another car crash which fractured the part of her spine that had been fused together. To repair this damage she needed a major operation lasting six hours” (Northants Telegraph).

 

6th March 2015

‘Dad-of-three killed himself after benefits were stopped and he was threatened with eviction’

“A father-of-three from Nelson took his own life after his benefits were stopped and he was threatened with eviction from his home, an inquest heard. The body of Benjamin Del McDonald, of Vaughan Street, was found off Gib Hill Road, where he played as a child, last November.

His sister, Mickayla Carr, told Burnley Coroner’s Court Mr McDonald was “a happy-go-lucky person” who “doted” on his five-year-old daughter. Mr McDonald, 34, suffered from depression and was reported missing by his ex-partner, Joanne Almond, on November 19 before being discovered near Marsden Park Golf Club that afternoon” (Lancashire Telegraph).

 

22nd June 2015

‘Heart attack victim has benefits axed for missing Jobcentre appointment as he fought for his life’

“A jobseeker had his benefits cut when a heart attack left him unable to attend his Jobcentre appointment. David Duncan’s jobseeker’s allowance was stopped last week after the 58-year-old suffered a major cardiac arrest” (Mirror)

 

22nd August 2015

‘Brutality of the Bedroom Tax exposed in disgraceful images of disabled Merseyside man driven from home’

“Rob Tomlinson, who has cerebral palsy, had to bathe in a paddling pool after Iain Duncan Smith’s rules forced him out of the home converted for his care” (Liverpool Echo)

 

28th August 2015

‘Disabled woman loses all but one of 49 hours of ILF support’

“Gaping holes have been exposed in the government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF) promises, after a local authority slashed a disabled woman’s support by 48 hours a week when the fund closed”. She had been “receiving 49 hours a week of ILF support, in addition to 35 hours of council support, but that package is now set to be cut to just 36 hours in total.

Hounslow council – which originally offered her just 21 hours a week, before it agreed to carry out another assessment – even suggested that she started using adult nappies, to lower her reliance on support from personal assistants and so ‘increase her independence” (Disability News Service)

 

21st September 2015

‘Coroner rules man with severe mental illness killed himself after he was found to be “fit to work” in a government assessment and lost access to his disability benefits’

“A coroner has ruled that a father with severe mental health issues killed himself after he was found ‘fit to work’ following a government assessment and lost access to his disability benefits. Michael O’Sullivan, 60, from Highgate, north London, hanged himself after being told he would no longer receive the money he had claimed for ten years, despite three doctors concluding that he was suffering from depression” (Daily Mail)

 

6th October 2015

‘Seriously ill Willesden man had his benefits stopped after he was deemed ‘fit for work’ weeks before he died’

“Ricky Neacey was forced to fight the decision by the Department of Work and Pensions to axe his Jobseekers allowance before it finally did a U-turn and accepted his health was failing.

The 52-year-old, who lived in a bedsit in Park Avenue, was eventually allowed to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is given to people who are deemed too ill to work, three weeks before dying from chronic liver failure.

Mr Neacey had developed diabetes and was in need of a liver operation; yet had been declared fit for work and informed that his benefits would be stopped unless he actively sought employment. At the time of his death he “had accrued rent arrears as Brent Council had stopped his Housing Benefit payments after the DWP alerted them to his benefits being axed” (Kilburn Times)

 

25th October 2015

‘Official letters worsen Daryl Major’s anxiety disorder’

“Housebound Daryl Major is concerned he will be left penniless if the Department for Work and Pensions continues to demand he attends an assessment centre. The 26-year-old, of Park South, has been receiving ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) for about two years after an injury to his knee left him unable to work.

Despite making numerous phone calls to the department to explain his condition, and being continually told just to send through medical evidence from his doctor, he has also received several letters over the past six months threatening to take action and stop his benefit.

He says the stress of the situation has made his anxiety disorder worse, making it even more difficult for him to leave his home. ‘They keep refusing, despite the amount of evidence stating that I need a home assessment, but they keep ignoring it,’ he said” (This is Wiltshire).

 

3rd November 2015

‘Pottery worker wins fight to get his benefits restored’

“Pottery worker Carl Bromfield is celebrating following a successful fight to have his employment and support allowance reinstated after it was wrongly withdrawn. Carl, a kiln placer at Royal Doulton for 20 years, had been working at Churchill China for four years before falling victim to a raft of knee problems. The 56-year-old dad-of-one, of Grays Close, Scholar Green, had to leave his job in 2013.

He was receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) until late August when he was called in by the Department of Work and Pensions for an assessment on his capability to work. Following his assessment, which was carried out on behalf of the DWP by U.S. company Maximus, Carl’s weekly payments of £72 were abruptly stopped, despite the fact he presented valid medical evidence highlighting his injuries” (Stoke Sentinel).

 

4th November 2015

‘DWP to take adapted car away from Alsager teenager who had leg amputated’

“Student Olivia Cork, 19, has raised thousands of pounds for charity since her leg was amputated because of cancer – now benefits changes mean she will lose her car ” (Crew Chronicle).

 

8th November 2015

‘Anfield man named after pirate: I’m victim of daylight robbery with £80-a-week benefits cut’

“A disabled Anfield man who is named after a pirate accused the government of daylight robbery when his benefits were slashed by £80 a week. Sin Bad, 46, who changed his name by deed poll from Richard Moore, suffers severe epilepsy and struggles to walk after injuring his head during a stairwell tumble.

He was given a benefits assessment and, as a result, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) announced his income would be cut by £80 per week, leaving him with £167 a week to live on” (Liverpool Echo)

 

11th November 2015

”’Go back to work’, DWP tells man who suffered four heart attacks’

“A tenants’ champion who has been told he must go back to work despite having four heart attacks says he has been left ‘financially destitute’ and shivering cold with only a duvet to keep him warm.

The 61-year-old man – a longstanding District Management Committee activist who did not want to be named – has been fighting for his Employment Support Assessment (ESA) benefits to be reinstated after they were removed following a “work capability assessment” on September 9.

The man has been diagnosed with pancreatitis, heart disease and suffers from ‘anxiety and stress’, according to his appeal letter, which adds that his condition has ‘deteriorated considerably’ since the test” (Camden New Journal).

 

12th November 2015

‘Benefit sanctions against people with mental health problems up by 600 per cent’

“The number of benefit sanctions imposed on people with mental health problems has increased by over 600 per cent over the last four years, Department for Work and Pensions statistics show. A joint analysis of the figures by the Independent and the mental health charity Mind found that 19,259 people with such conditions had their benefits stopped under sanction in 2014-15 compared to just 2,507 in 2011-12 – a 668 per cent rise.

The finding comes weeks after ministers rejected a call to investigate whether such sanctions – which involve stopping a person’s disability benefit income for weeks at a time to enforce compliance – are damaging to mental health” (Independent)

 

13th November 2015

‘Disabled man died of heart attack after being told of ESA sanction threat’

“A disabled man died of a heart attack, just an hour after being told that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was threatening to stop paying his out-of-work disability benefits”. Alan McArdle “who had previously been homeless but was living in council accommodation in Slough with the support of a charity, told the friend who had read the DWP letter to him: ‘They’ve sanctioned my money,’ before he collapsed” (Disability News Service).

 

13th November 2015

‘Family of Great Yarmouth man who starved to death say he was ‘failed by the system’’

“Emidio Dos Santos, 43, was found dead in the Victory Hotel in Nelson Road South on October 22. It is believed he had been dead for around five days and a postmortem found he had died of bronchial pneumonia and malnutrition”.

His step-father said: “My son, Adam, had seen him in St George’s Park and it looked like he’d been beaten up, but we didn’t know how bad it was. We know that his money was stopped in August, for sanctions I think,” added Mr Pollard, 73. “But he wasn’t able to get any money from anywhere, and because his English wasn’t great I don’t think he knew where to turn. I feel like he’s been failed by the system. You can say what you like about immigrants and such but they’re still humans” (Norwich Evening News)

 

16th November 2015

‘Father with kidney failure and rare heart condition ‘denied Government financial support”’

“A father with kidney failure and a rare heart condition claims he has been denied financial support
from the Government. Stephen Beet, 30, undergoes five hours of dialysis at his home in North Bransholme three times a week.

Mr Beet, who works at the Aunt Bessie’s factory in west Hull, has twice applied for Personal Independence Payments (Pip) from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), but has been turned down. A tribunal hearing also rejected his claim” (Hull Daily Mail).

 

3rd December 2015

‘DWP to apologise to woman whose brother killed himself after his benefits were cut’

“A woman whose partially sighted brother killed himself after his benefits were cut is to receive an apology from the Department for Work and Pensions, after the health service ombudsman partially upheld her complaint about his case. It marks the end of a two-year battle for Linda Cooksey, 60, who believes her brother Tim Salter, a recluse with undiagnosed mental health problems, should never have been found fit for work by DWP assessors.

Salter, described by his sister as a lovely man, killed himself in September 2013, nine months after his benefits were stopped. A coroner ruled that a major factor in the 53-year-old’s death was that his benefits had been greatly reduced, leaving him almost destitute” (Guardian)

 

11th December 2015

‘Leiston man, 50, died after being unable to cope with changes to benefits’

“Stephen Smith, of Seaward Avenue, took his own life on January 17 this year, following a long period of mental health problems. Changes to the benefits system in June last year meant that Mr Smith was invited to submit a Personal Independent Payment (PIP) claim, as his disability allowance was about to expire.

But after the Department of Work and Pensions ruled that he was ineligible, Mr Smith and his partner Lucy Stewart, who was also on benefits relating to a learning disability, saw their weekly total cut by £137.55, and left the 50-year-old in despair over his financial situation” (East Anglian Daily Times).

 

2016

7th January 2016

‘Braintree mum Dawn Amos, 67, told she’s too healthy for sick benefits on the day she dies’

“A mother battling a serious lung condition was told she no longer qualified for benefits on the day she died from her illness. Dawn Amos, 67, died as a result of suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a collection of lung diseases.”

Her husband discovered a letter sent from the DWP two days after his wife’s death; notifying her that the disability benefits she received were being withdrawn based on “treatment, medication, symptoms and test results” (Clacton and Frinton Gazette).

 

11th January 2016

‘Cancer patients could be left homeless because of brutal Tory benefit cuts’

“Macmillan Cancer Support says Government cuts to ESA would leave 10% unable or struggling to pay their mortgage or rent if they lost their current £120 a month” (Mirror)

 

18th January 2016

‘Bedroom Tax victory: Brain damaged ex-footballer in Rocket flyover fall beats hated Tory policy’

“An ex-footballer left permanently brain damaged after a 60ft fall from a motorway flyover has beaten the government’s controversial Bedroom Tax. Neil Carroll took the near-fatal plunge after being abandoned by a rogue cabbie who’d stolen his bank card and cleared his account of £250.

The 25-year-old’s injuries left him virtually paralysed, wheelchair-bound and unable to walk and talk – and he now needs round-the-clock care. Last week, the ECHO revealed the ex-LFC academy player was being penalised by the Tory party’s Bedroom Tax at his specially-adapted home in Prescot.

But last Friday, his family successfully argued the charge was unfair at Liverpool Tribunal Court, as it was ruled Neil’s four-bedroomed home was not under-occupied” (Liverpool Echo)

 

21st January 2016

‘Luke Loy had a life, until his benefits started falling away’

“when his mother died of cancer, Luke found his housing benefit cut: the bedroom tax meant that from 2013 his late mother’s bedroom was classed as ‘spare’. A year later, another piece of support was pulled from him: Luke had been receiving incapacity benefit for over 20 years, but after a work capability assessment (WCA) in late 2014, he was declared ‘fit for work’.

What came next for Luke is a now familiar spiral: pushed off sickness benefits and unable to cope with the requirements of the jobcentre, he had his jobseeker’s allowance taken away. His housing benefit and council tax support were also cut. His debts started to mount and he began to struggle to feed himself. Three months later – on 29 May 2015 – when Luke failed to respond to his family’s calls, police officers broke into his house and found him dead on his bedroom floor. An inquest returned an open verdict” (Guardian)

 

29th January 2016

‘Mum left with just £4 after disability benefit bungle thanks Chronicle after payments resume

“A mother who had just £4 to her name after her daughter’s disability payments were unexpectedly cut is thanking the Chronicle after they were resumed. Rebecca Mason found herself in dire straits when the Department for Work and Pensions wrote to her saying benefits for her daughter Bobie Jane had stopped.

“I got a letter in the post saying that we wouldn’t be getting our disability living allowance anymore because we hadn’t returned the application for my daughter’s personal independent payments,” said Rebecca, who lives at Steeple Bay Holiday Park. But I never received the form in the first place” (Essex Chronicle)

 

29th January 2016

‘The government denied me disability benefit because I could ‘probably make a sandwich'”

“I allegedly didn’t look tired enough at my assessment to convince them that my Multiple Sclerosis-induced fatigue is real” (New Statesman).

 

11th February 2016

‘Stroke sufferer says DWP are “forcing him back into work”’

“A Crewe man says he feels he is being punished for having a stroke because the DWP is forcing him back into employment when he is unfit. Michael Ashley, who worked at Airbus in Broughton, had a stroke in December 2014 and now struggles to use one side of his body. On occasion he has had ‘accidents’ where he has been unable to get to the toilet on time.

But, following a 43 minute health assessment to see if he is eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA) – the benefit which has replaced incapacity benefit – the DWP has just ruled he is fit to work” (Crewe Chronicle).

 

18th February 2016

‘Emily has organ failure – yet her mother had to battle for benefits’

Emily Field “has had type 1 diabetes since she started primary school. Over the past three years Field’s health has deteriorated rapidly – she’s struggled with chronic fatigue, pain and failing eyesight – and in the spring of 2015 she was diagnosed with diabetic kidney disease”. Doctors informed Ms Field that she would not live “much longer without dialysis and a pancreas and kidney transplant”.

Yet, the jobcentre declared her ineligible for employment and support allowance, because her fiance works more than 16 hours a week: “while she was waiting for a double organ transplant – Field’s rejection for personal independence payments (PIP) was confirmed. Looking through the rundown of the assessment sent to Atos’s customer service department, it is filled with references to Field’s appearance (‘well kept’) and scatterings of medical detail in broken sentences (‘she goes to the renal clinic … She has blood tests, it hurts her and stresses her out … she goes to eye clinic’).

This was the third time that Ms Field had been denied disability benefits in two years; or perhaps the fourth, as on one occasion the DWP lost the paperwork, meaning she had to reapply (Guardian).

 

22nd February 2016

‘Grieving mum found hanged near Bedroom Tax eviction letter had written poverty plea to David Cameron’

“Frances McCormack, aged 53, had been badgered for Bedroom Tax after the death of her 16-year-old son Jack Allen in 2013, an inquest heard” (Mirror)

 

3rd March 2016

‘Paul Donnachie’s benefits were suspended. Months later, he killed himself’

“Paul Donnachie, who had depression and anxiety, would have turned 51 a fortnight ago. Instead, his elder sister, Eleanor, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire – 10 miles from Paul’s former council flat in Glasgow city centre – is speaking to me about his death.

Last June, Paul had his sickness benefits stopped by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) when he missed his fifth ‘fit for work’ test. The DWP contacted Glasgow city council, and Paul had both his housing benefit and council tax support suspended”.

It took several months for Mr Donnachie’s benefits to be to be reinstated. During the period when he had no income, “he relied on the council for two Scottish welfare crisis grants to pay for electricity, gas, and food” as well as food parcels from a relative.

A month later, the council made an error, and stopped paying Mr Donnachie’s housing benefit. On 15 January, Paul Donnachie’s body “was found by bailiffs arriving to evict him. He had killed himself: it’s thought he had been dead for two months” (Guardian)

 

14 March 2016

‘Dying woman told by DWP the mobility car she calls her “legs” is being taken away’

“A terminally ill woman has been informed by the Department of Work and Pensions that the mobility car she relies on as her ‘legs’ is being taken away, following an assessment at her home. Marie Piles, 34, from Port Talbot, is unable to walk around the room without running out of breath and needs to carry up to four oxygen tanks with her whenever she leaves the house in case her oxygen levels drop, she told Wales Online. She will be left ‘housebound’ if the car is taken, she said” (Independent)

 

18th March 2016

“I am incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the government has delivered over the last five years” – Iain Duncan Smith (BBC)

 

21st March 2016

‘Dying dad’s disability benefits axed after he cuddled his little girl during assessment’

“A dying dad has told how his disability benefit was axed – after he lovingly reached out to hug his four-year-old daughter. Father-of-five Mark Roberts, 45, has just two years to live after surviving a massive heart attack. But he says he scored zero on a test of his mobility and daily living after an assessor watched him embrace his little girl Saffron, who was suffering from chicken pox” (Mirror)

 

13th May 2016

‘Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry’

“A series of secret internal inquiries into the deaths of people claiming social security reveal that ministers were repeatedly warned of shortcomings in the treatment of vulnerable claimants facing potentially traumatic cuts to their benefits entitlements.

The conclusions are contained in 49 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) inquiry reports finally released to campaigners on Friday after a two-year Freedom of Information (FOI) battle. Some 40 of the reports followed a suicide. In 10 cases, the claimant had had their benefits sanctioned” (Guardian)

 

3rd June 2016

‘Disabled woman has benefits removed by DWP after trying to find work – the woman had written permission from the Department for Work and Pensions to start work when her benefits were stopped’

“A paraplegic woman has been penalised by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after resigning from a part-time job she sought herself but was unable to continue due to ill health. The woman had her benefits stopped after she gave up working eight hours a week for a consultancy agency.

The DWP allow disabled people to receive sickness benefits if they are employed fewer than 16 hours a week and earn less than £115.50 for it. Speaking to the Guardian under the pseudonym Sarah Jones, she said she received written permission from the DWP to start work. But by March, Ms Jones told the DWP she had to resign because the job was taking a toll on her health.

A month later, the DWP fraud department accused her of working without permission” (Independent)

 

28th August 2016

‘This man has had his Disability Living Allowance stopped despite having had a heart attack, two strokes and kidney problems’

“Philip Williams, 56, from Caernarfon has been plagued by health problems in recent years including kidney failure, loss of hearing and ulcerative colitis – which brings on bouts of extreme diarrhoea and vomiting.

But he has now been told via a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on Monday saying that his Disability Living Allowance will be stopped next month after a recent medical assessment deemed him ineligible for benefits” (Wales Online)

 

29th August 2016

‘Man who had heart attack and two strokes has Disability Living Allowance revoked by DWP’

“A man said he had been declared fit to work despite suffering from a heart attack, two strokes and having 12 hours of kidney dialysis a week. Phillip Williams, from Caernarfon, Wales, has been informed by the Department of Work and Pensions that his Disability Living Allowance will be stopped next month.

The 56-year-old was born with Alports Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which causes kidney disease, hearing loss and can also affect the eyes. He has also been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, which brings on bouts of extreme vomiting and diarrhoea” (Independent).

 

19th September 2016

‘Disabled multiple sclerosis sufferer wins appeal after being told he is ‘fit enough to get bus’ to work’

“A disabled man has won his appeal against cruel benefits cuts that left him stranded without a car. David Trotter – who has multiple sclerosis (MS) – lost his vehicle when a vital mobility payment was slashed by officials. The 32-year-old, who needs crutches to walk, was told he was fit enough to take a bus from his home in Dalkeith, Midlothian, to his job 15 miles away in Livingston. But David has had his payments reinstated after winning an appeal last week” (Daily Record)

 

20th September 2016

‘Stroke victim “told to take back-to-work test while still in hospital”‘

“An MP is demanding an investigation after a stroke victim claimed she was told she must undergo a back-to-work test – while in a hospital stroke unit. Labour’s Iain Wright said the case was one of the most disgraceful he had heard from constituents on sickness benefits who have been told to undergo a work capability assessment” (Independent)

 

6th October 2016

‘Woman has disability benefits stopped – despite not being able to climb her own stairs’

“A woman suffering from a long list of debilitating conditions who was told her benefits had been stopped because she was deemed capable of working

Sally Rahali is barely being able to walk up a set of stairs, and has welcomed news that people with chronic illnesses will no longer be reassessed…The 42-year-old scored ‘zero’ on a work capability assessment, meaning her Employment and Support Allowance payments (ESA) of £299 a fortnight have been stopped” (Mirror).

 

15th October 2016

‘Woman whose benefits cut during open heart surgery has PIP payments slashed again’

“A disabled woman who had much-needed benefits stopped because she missed appointments whilst having open heart surgery , has had her benefit slashed again. Lyn Wright from Colwyn Bay had her Personal Independence Payments (PIP) stopped in August but had it reinstated after the Daily Post highlighted her plight .

Now, after being assessed by a Capita, the private company tasked by the DWP to carry out ‘work assessments’ she was told she will lose her higher rate Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The higher rate PIP entitled Lyn to a mobility car and she said she will be unable to make weekly doctor’s appointments without it.

She said vital care will have to be scrapped because of the reduction in money, from £139.75 to £55.10 a week, which came after what she described as an ‘inadequate assessment’ in which the assessor told her she ‘didn’t have time’ for Lyn to list her ailments” (Daily Post)

 

18th October 2016

‘MS sufferer who struggles to walk has had disability allowance taken away’

“A mother-of-two who struggles to walk more than a few metres without help has had her mobility allowance taken away. Assessors from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) visited multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Mel Wiseman at her home in Newton Burgoland in July and decided she no longer qualified for the £87-a-month personal independence payment (PIP) awarded the previous year due to her disability” (Leicester Mercury).

 

26th October 2016

‘Victory for Cinderford woman in benefits battle with DWP’

“Sophie Allen, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2015, has won an appeal against the government department after being refused Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in the summer.”

As Ms Allen outlined: “After the initial struggle of being newly diagnosed with a lifelong illness and receiving no support, I started to apply for PIP in January 2016. It was a horrible process. You have to be assessed which is very demoralising and from a personal point of view, pointless. I was asked lots of irrelevant questions about my education, what food I liked and my house. I was denied the benefit, as if it’s not bad enough that I’m 35 years-old and walk up the road like I’m drunk, with my three children, because of my condition” (Forest Review).

 

30th October 2016

‘Boy with half a heart gets benefits taken away on his eighth birthday’

“The schoolboy will need a transplant if he is to reach adulthood, and has already undergone five operations and been brought back to life twice. He was born without a left ventricle, meaning his heart only has one pump instead of two – making it difficult for blood to be sent around his body…now the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) say his condition is ‘not as severe’ as previously thought because he can walk 50 metres at a normal pace.

Shockingly, Ben received the letter (referring to him by the wrong name) saying the majority of his benefits are being taken away on his eighth birthday, June 26 this year. His family are now facing a shortfall of £700 a month after his dad Paul’s carer’s allowance was also taken away” (Metro)

 

 

 

 

Ordeals of this kind did not begin with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government, of 2010-15. In 2007, one of my own relatives was left unable to continue working as a long-distance haulier, following the onset of illness. He was misdiagnosed as having suffered a minor stroke; and subsequently undertook the equivalent of a work capability assessment in order to qualify for disability benefits. He was declared ineligible. After nearly half a year of deteriorating health, he was eventually diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. He died several months afterwards.

In fact, there were a number of similar cases preceding the Coalition government’s reforms; which were introduced during the period 2011-13. In December 2009, a pregnant woman called Christelle Pardo jumped to her death, while holding her five-month-old son; after her benefits had been stopped. In April 2010, an unemployed man, named Stephen Cawthra, committed suicide. He had previously seen his benefits stopped, though reinstated; and had been taken to court over debts. Anxieties about money were believed to be the primary factor behind his suicide.

There were at least two incidents of this kind during the immediate months of the Coalition government’s term in office, however. During July 2010, the Scottish author Paul Reekie committed suicide; and friends of his affirmed “letters informing him that his welfare benefits were to be halted were found close to his body”. In August 2010, Leanne Chambers took her own life, after “receiving a letter telling her she had to be assessed by a doctor to see if she was fit to return to work”.

For years now, people have been dying in needless distress – either due to the conditions they were left in through the failures of the benefit system; or at their own hands, when they could no longer cope with the circumstances which confronted them. Why has there been such a systemic failure to protect people from deleterious changes in their lives? Moreover, why have a succession of governments continuously denied people the support which they required, when they needed it most? And why has so much misery been imposed upon socially vulnerable men and women, so needlessly?

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Employment And Support Allowance Sanction Decisions: 2011 – 2014

The DWP published a Freedom of Information response, on 9th April, which demonstrates how drastically the number of sanctions imposed on ESA claimants increased between 2011-2014:

Employment and Support Allowance adverse, non-adverse and cancelled sanction referral decisions: Jan 2011 to Sept 2014

The data on this is contained in the Excel sheet. What is remarkable is how dramatically both the number of referrals for sanction, and the number of adverse decisions, increased between 2011-14. From January 2011-April 2012 the total number of adverse decisions each month was less than 1,000. The highest volume of sanctions during this period was 895 in April; the lowest was 138 in June 2011.

It hit over a thousand for the first time in May 2012, and other than the following month, the number of adverse sanctions per month was never lower than a thousand  from this point on. It rose to above 2,000 in July 2013; and to 3,000 plus in January 2014. It represents an exponential rise, across three years, to c. 3,000 adverse sanctions for ESA recipients per month.

These are people the government knows cannot work, and provide for themselves. The vast majority of them are recorded as people with ‘Mental and Behavioural Disorders’: of the 3,828 people who received adverse sanctions in the last recorded month of September 2014, 2,047 were people in this category.

Petition

A reader has created a petition calling for Iain Duncan Smith to be removed from office, in the wake of another person taking their life following welfare reform: via Change.Org

Not sure I approve of David cameron being called Honourable, mind.

Duncan Smith, Work Programme Statistics, and Shamelessness.

According to Iain Duncan Smith in a Parliamentary debate on 10th May 2013:

“The Work programme is a success. In fact, the Office for National Statistics wrote the other day to a number people correcting how they interpreted the figures. It made it very clear that what the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill and others have said about the statistics was completely wrong. The ONS has said that the reality is that the figure of 2% or 3% that he has been using, which is below the minimum performance level, is incorrect. It went on to say that the realistic and more relevant figure is that 8.6% of those referred to the Work programme are in sustained employment in the first six months”.

Is this true? Is it really?

No, of course not. This stat did not originate with the ONS; instead it has been taken out of context from a UK Statistics Authority letter – which expressly warned Smith to stop taking statistics out of context:

“Whilst both the PAC report and the related National Audit Office report focus on the fact that 3.6% of people referred to the Work Programme between June 2011 and July 2012 achieved sustained employment (normally of six months) by July 2012, the Statistics Authority does not regard that as the most relevant measure to use – since many of the individuals would not have been in the scheme long enough to achieve six months sustained employment by July 2012.

Our conclusion is that the more relevant figure is that based on the June 2011 cohort on its own – namely that 8.6% of those referred to the Work Programme in June 2011 were in sustained employment of at least six months (or three months if hard to place) at some point during the 12 months following referral. That figure can of course now be updated for each month from June 2011 to give a monthly series. The existence of such different measures was the root of some concern at the hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on 17 December 2012 but there are good arithmetic reasons why one is a lot higher than the other and it is up to the authors of the Department’s statistical releases to explain these points clearly and fully”.

So, the UK Stats Authority made clear that the figure of 8.6% was applicable to the month of June 2011 only – and that this should be updated monthly. Smith not only attributed this to the wrong source, but took it out of context. Nothing particularly new, in fairness.

However, it is the following which demonstrates how shameless Smith is being:

“The figures might be described as, for example, 3.5% of people referred to the Work Programme between June 2011 and July 2012 had been in sustainable employment by July 2012‟. This cannot be used as a measure of the success of the Work Programme because those referred to it in, say, June 2012, could not have built up three (or six) months‟ sustained employment.

Ultimately, it is too soon to make judgements about the performance of the Work Programme – just two one-month cohorts (June and July 2011, at the time of publication) had had sufficient follow up (and data collection) time to allow the first 12-month performance to be assessed. Since the beginning of a new programme is not necessarily representative of the entire Programme‟s performance, further time is needed to assess the first year more fully.”

It adds:

“Users should be informed about the quality of the statistical outputs, including estimates of the main sources of bias and other errors” and “Ultimately, it is too soon to assess the performance of the Work Programme – just two onemonth cohorts (June and July 2011, at the time of publication) had had sufficient follow up (and data collection) time to allow the first 12-month performance to be assessed”.

Furthermore, UKSA specifically requested that the DWP include an impartial narrative in releases, along with context for the stats, and information about the strengths and limitations of the statistics in relation to their potential use. None of which seems to have had any impact.

It’s also worth noting that even a 91.4% rate of failure would hardly be a success.

 

‘Workshy Maps Of Britain’: Government Press Briefings Still Demonising Disabled People

Simultanteously today, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express published articles bemoaning the most ‘work-shy’ regions of Britain.

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Source: Daily Mail.

The fact that their claims originated in a press briefing can be put beyond any doubt – unless the Mail plagiarised the Express, at least – given the identical material the two articles quote:

Express: “Employment minister Mark Hoban said: “The old system condemned far too many people to a life on sickness benefits with little help to move back to work. Now people who can work will be given the long term help they need to find a job, while those who need unconditional support will get it.” Incapacity Benefit has been replaced by Employment and Support Allowance as part of an overhaul of the welfare state spearheaded by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith”.

Mail: “Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, said they will now get long term help from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme to find work. He said: ‘The old system condemned far too many people to a life on sickness benefits with little help to move back to work. ‘This is a huge waste, but now people who can work will be given the long term help they need to find a job which is right for them, while those who need unconditional support will get it.’ Incapacity Benefit has been replaced by Employment and Support Allowance as part of an overhaul of the welfare state spearheaded by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith”.

Mail: “Under the old system people were allowed to claim incapacity for a variety of ailments such as acne or obesity.”

Express: “Under the old regime lay­abouts could avoid work by claiming spurious medical conditions, like acne, because there were no regular checks”.

Bizarrely, the Mail concluded by quoting a TUC official , who bemoaned the government peddling junk statistics, as will prove highly pertinent.

The statistical release itself, though not linked to or cited accurately by either paper, was a Quarterly Bulletin published on 30th April 2013. In contrast to the sweeping claims published by the Mail/Express, it cautioned readers immediately, that:

“Figures in this issue cannot reflect the final outcomes, because they do not include: effect of appeals still lodged in the legal system; and claims with no outcome yet recorded. For these reasons it is likely that the statistics underestimate the proportion of claimants who will ultimately be awarded the benefit by greater amounts for more recent periods. Allowing for these factors, overall statistics show a similar picture to that given in the last issues of 22nd and 29th January 2013 – please see the results section.”

However, it stratified ESA claims/outcomes into two distinct groups: new claims, and reassessments. The proportion of successful claims differs markedly between these two sets of people; as does the overall rate of assessment.

New claims: only 48% had actually received an assessment and outcome. Of these

  • 52 per cent of claimants were entitled to the benefit. Within this –
  • 23 per cent of claimants were placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), and
  • 29 per cent of claimants were placed in the Support Group (SG); and
  • 48 per cent of claimants were assessed as Fit for Work (FFW) and are no longer eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.

This is prior to any appeal; and constitutes fewer than half of new benefit claimants.

Reassessments of long-standing claims were more conclusive:

  • 93 per cent of claimants have an outcome i.e. decisions have been made on their claims;
  • 3 per cent of claimants had their claim closed before having an outcome; and
  • 4 per cent of claimants were still undergoing assessment.

So, clearly the sweeping nature of the Mail/Express/government ministers is woefully inadequate to convey the highly complex reality of assessment outcomes.  How about the derogatory rhetoric of people being ‘workshy’?

According to the Mail:

“This map of Britain reveals the ‘workshy’ spots around the country where people claiming incapacity benefit claimants are actually fit enough to work. The Government introduced tough new health tests for those who claimed to be too unwell to get back into employment two years ago. Since then some 203,000, 30 per cent, out of 700,000 receiving the old Incapacity Benefit were declared fit to find work”.

This stat in its own right is highly noteworthy: if the vast majority – 70% – of people assessed are being found totally or partially incapable of working, then the benefit itself is hardly beset with fraudulent claims. But let’s look at the actual local authority cases cited by the Mail, in order to see how it – and the people who briefed the two papers – are misinforming people.

The highest rates of supposedly workshy people are listed by the Mail as follows:

  • Birmingham   5,180
  • Glasgow City 3,950
  • Liverpool    3,280
  • Manchester   3,030
  • County Durham 2,970
  • Leeds         2,570
  • Bradford      2,430
  • Sheffield     2,180

The DWP source for this data was  Table 11: “Incapacity Benefits Reassessments – Outcomes of Work Capability Assessments adjusted to account for the outcome of appeal by month of referral, Regions and Local Authorities” in the tables section of the April 2013 Quarterly Bulletin release.

The statistics presented as the numbers of ‘work-shy’ people per city were drawn from the column E: ‘Fit for Work’: so, evidently, not ‘workshy’ – merely people who had been declared capable of work, following their Atos assessments. Let’s put this data in proper context of declared outcomes:

  • Birmingham         (ESA) 9,460 (FFW) 5,180 (Total) 14640
  • Glasgow City        (ESA) 11,780 (FFW) 3,950 (Total) 15730
  • Liverpool              (ESA) 7,570 (FFW) 3,280 (Total) 10850
  • Manchester          (ESA) 6,940 (FFW) 3,030  (Total) 9970
  • County Durham  (ESA) 6,100 (FFW) 2,970  (Total) 9070
  • Leeds                     (ESA) 6,280 (FFW) 2,570   (Total) 8850
  • Bradford               (ESA) 3,900 (FFW) 2,430  (Total) 6330
  • Sheffield                 (ESA) 5,140 (FFW) 2,180 (Total) 7320

Are these out of the ordinary for Britain? Overall declared outcomes in Britain are as follows:

  • Employment Support Allowance: 496,840
  • Fit-for-work:                                      203,330
  • Total:                                                    700,170

As mean average, 71% of outcomes were ESA;  29% were Fit-for-work. Per city, the proportions of these two outcomes is as follows:

  • Birmingham:         (ESA) 64% (FFW) 36%
  • Glasgow City:        (ESA) 74% (FFW) 26%
  • Liverpool:              (ESA) 70% (FFW) 30%
  • Manchester:          (ESA) 70% (FFW) 30%
  • County Durham:  (ESA) 67% (FFW) 33%
  • Leeds:                     (ESA) 71% (FFW) 29%
  • Bradford:               (ESA) 61% (FFW) 39%
  • Sheffield:               (ESA) 70% (FFW) 30%

So, even though these cities have the highest number of people declared fit for work, the actual ratios are overwhelmingly consistent with the national mean-average. Even without considering the complexities of work capability assessments, it is evident that these are certainly not areas over-populated by ‘the workshy’ – that is, people who have been subject to the highly problematic work capability assessments, and declared capable of working.

Finally, how about the rhetorical claims that the number of people claiming ESA has declined after the government introduced “tough new assessments to weed out the workshy”? According to the DWP Bulletin itself, since 2010, the percentage of people entitled to ESA has increased from 44% to 52%; while the rate of people found ‘fit for work’ has decreased from 56% to 48% (p. 8). Perhaps more to the point, approximately 30% of appeals against initial decisions are overturned (p. 10). Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of declaring so many people healthy, when previously they had been found incapacitated, it is clear that even taking the government’s claims at face value proves that their insinuations are completely hollow.  In fact, the DWP was far more cautious than the press briefing/articles suggested it had been:

“there is no clear trend in entitlement for the majority of the series, however recent quarters show an increase in those entitled to ESA and corresponding decrease in those found fit to work. There is more of a pattern in placement into groups after the bedding down of the benefit, with distinct growth in the SG and decline in the WRAG from March 2011, and this – might be again due to changes made to the WCA based on reviews outlined above. These statements should not be interpreted to mean that the above are more than likely factors on the series – there may be others at work as well”.

It’s also vital to put all of this in proper context: at least 30% of appeals are successful – but there is still no penalty applied to Atos, for carrying out the assessments and getting such a huge proportion wrong. The people subject to these assessments are sick, or severely disabled. Thousands of people have died after being declared fit and healthy. It is highly likely that people in these same circumstances are among those being dismissed as ‘work-shy’. In light of this, the actions of the government, Mail, and Express are distinctly odious.

Truth and Lies About Poverty

Iain Duncan Smith’s personal think-tank, the Centre For Social Justice, has released a response to the report ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’, published by several churches to coincide with the onset of welfare reforms, at the beginning of April 2013[1]. This report had set out to refute six ‘convenient myths about poverty’:

  • Myth 1: ‘They’ are lazy and just don’t want to work
  • Myth 2: ‘They’ are addicted to drink and drugs
  • Myth 3: ‘They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly
  • Myth 4: ‘They’ are on the fiddle
  • Myth 5: ‘They’ have an easy life on benefits
  • Myth 6: ‘They’ caused the deficit

express-scrounger

Underlying the evaluation of these myths was an enquiry into the reasons why they had become commonplace:

“today many churchgoers and members of the general public alike have come to believe that the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of the poor – especially ‘idleness’. How did this come about?” (p.4)[2].

The report presented an unequivocal schema:

“The myths exposed in this report, reinforced by politicians and the media, are convenient because they allow the poor to be blamed for their poverty, and the rest of society to avoid taking any of the responsibility. Myths hide the complexity of the true nature of poverty in the UK. They enable dangerous policies to be imposed on whole sections of society without their full consequences being properly examined” (p. 4)[3].

It is therefore clear that the churches were criticising the welfare policies of the government, along with the case made in support of them.

The Centre for Social Justice’s response ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’, attempts to counter the view that these six talking points about poverty are in fact myths; and outlined its own agenda – namely supporting the welfare policies of the government, while reiterating the belief that:

“any serious measure of poverty must recognise its root causes: family breakdown, economic dependency and worklessness, educational failure, addiction to drugs and alcohol and serious personal debt” (p. 1)[4].

So, evidently, the CSJ re-stated its standpoint that poverty exists because of personal failings among those who are poor; it also contends that the churches’ report was severely flawed because “much of it is based on serious misinformation and fails to give an accurate representation of life ‘on the breadline’ today” (p. 1)[5].

I’m old fashioned, and prefer facts and evidence to opinions. Does the CSJ substantiate its claims? Or does it attempt to reinforce the very myths about poverty which the churches had criticised in the first place?

Unsurprisingly, it does the latter. As will become perfectly clear, the CSJ’s response comprises a patchwork of misleading assertions, borne of exaggerations, sleights of hand, carefully cherry-picked statistics withdrawn from context and isolated from contradiction; and it sedulously ignores the actual claims about poverty, and the myths surrounding it, made by the churches.

Firstly, the CSJ object to the notion of ‘poverty borne by idleness’ being a myth:

“It is important to underline the scale of worklessness today. Nobody works in almost one in five (17.9 per cent) UK households and nearly 4.7 million people in Great Britain claim one or more out-of-work benefits” (p. 2)[6].

untitled1

The source provided for this is an Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin ‘Working and Workless Households, 2012’[7]. The CSJ presents this as evidence that many people in poverty are in fact lazy, and do not want to work. In reality, the percentage of workless households has increased because of the recession: it was at its lowest rate in 2006; and is at its worst in areas with high rates of employment shortages. The Office for National Statistics put the percentage of workless households in Britain at 17.9% as of 2012:

“In April to June 2012 there were 3.7 million UK households with at least one member aged 16 to 64 where no-one was currently working. This represented 17.9 per cent of households and was a fall of 0.8 percentage points, or 153,000 households, on a year earlier, the second consecutive fall. In all, 1.8 million children lived in these households” (p. 2)[8].

Of these only 2.7% were households where all adults were unemployed. The largest group within this were aged 50 to 64. This is a group affected particularly adversely by the economic downturn[9] – and middle-aged women have been hit especially hard by job losses, with a 31% increase in unemployment since the coalition government came to power[10].  So, this spate of households of adults who are unemployed can not reasonably be attributed to idleness – it is borne of socio-economic factors beyond peoples’ own control. However, the CSJ add that:

“This is not just a recession-driven problem. Even when the economy was booming in the previous decade, the number of households where nobody worked actually doubled” (p. 2)[11].

The source given for the first part of this claim is the ONS[12]. The CSJ’s line of argument here amounts to a clever manipulation of the difference between fractions and percentages: it is true that the number of these households doubled: but from a mere 0.9%, to an equally meagre 1.8%[13]. This requires no further comment, frankly, other than to note that the CSJ omitted to mention the actual figures herein. It is also important to bear in mind that the churches at this point were writing about poverty – not unemployment. As they noted:

“The majority of families that live in poverty do so despite being in employment. Excluding pensioners, there are 6.1 million people in families in work living in poverty compared with 5.1 million people in poverty from workless households” (p. 13)[14].

The CSJ do not address the fact of in-work poverty at any point; less still acknowledge that it has a higher rate than out of work poverty: it flatly discredits the myth that poverty can be attributed to people being lazy or work-shy, when the largest group of people living in poverty are also employed. Moreover, over half of adults in households where no one has ever worked are under 25. So the increase of workless-households is almost certainly a manifestation of high and rising unemployment among young adults, which has reached record levels since the onset of recession[15].

By contrast, the CSJ lurch onto the subject of incapacity and disability:

“In relation to incapacity benefits, the report says (with no source for its claim) that ‘the number of people claiming out-of-work benefits because of sickness or disability has steadily decreased since the mid-1990s’. However, as Figure one shows below, the disability and sickness caseload actually remained relatively constant over this period and even rose slightly during the economic boom.” (p. 2)[16].

Again, the CSJ are putting this forward as evidence that many impoverished people are poor because they are idle, and choose not to work. What the CSJ choose not to mention is that ESA/Incapacity Benefits are not limited to people of working-age – and are ultimately irrelevant to the point the Truth and Lies report actually made:

“The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits because of sickness or disability has steadily decreased since the mid-1990s, whilst the severity of the claimants’ conditions have in turn increased. The accusation that incapacity benefits were used to hide people more properly described as unemployed may have had some validity in the aftermath of the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. However, today’s claimants are not the hidden unemployed” (p. 14)[17].

It is this second aspect which was clearly the myth which the churches were objecting to; and which the CSJ chose to avoid addressing. The overall context of this section was an evaluation of the rhetoric surrounding disabled people and supposed fitness to work – the churches’ report provides examples of media commentaries on the subject:

“There really are far, far too many people sponging off the taxpayer right now with their fake or exaggerated disabilities” – James Delingpole, Daily Telegraph, 26 January 2012.

And:

“Eight out of ten claiming [incapacity] benefits are fit to work” – Daily Mail, 24 January 2012.

benefit scroungers headline

As noted, at no point do the CSJ address this point. In fact, the context of this myth is the putative existence of ‘a culture of worklessness’. As the churches wrote:

“Despite evidence to the contrary, the majority of the British public believes that the welfare system has created a culture of worklessness and dependency which often runs through entire families” (p. 17)[18].

daily-mail-welfare

The CSJ actually reaffirms their view that this popular belief is not a myth, but a reflection of reality:

“It is often a logical decision not to work or increase your hours because you can be better off financially on benefits. It is unsurprising therefore that a CSJ/YouGov poll found that only a quarter of benefit claimants thought they would be better off by working” (p. 3)[19].

I’ve highlighted the operative word here: this is a case of the CSJ using opinion polls to bypass evidence-based analysis. It may well be true that most people think this  – but this does not reflect reality[20]. There is no evidence presented by the CSJ that people are financially wealthier when unemployed than working, and the point can be left there, because nobody has ever substantiated claims to the contrary[21].

1jNR5

The churches had also criticised the myth that people in poverty are predominantly addicted to alcohol and drugs. Again, the CSJ reiterates its stance that this is not a myth – and does this via carefully selected statistics and opinion polls. It claims that:

“Some 705,000 children currently grow up with a dependent drinker and 350,000 children grow up with a problem drug user. Just 13 per cent of clients presenting to treatment in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland during 2009/10 were employed and in Scotland, 72 per cent reported funding drug use from welfare benefits. These are alarmingly high figures and the CSJ rejects any attempt to downplay their significance” (p. 4)[22].

The source provided for this data is a web-page by the Children’s Society, advertising its ‘Cash For Kids’ appeal, to “to raise awareness around parental drug and alcohol misuse”[23]. What it actually says is the following:

“Parental drug and alcohol misuse is alarmingly high in the UK and affects up to 3 million children, 2.6 million of whom live with parents who drink hazardously; 705,000 of these are living with a dependant drinker and 350,000 children live with a problematic drug user.”

There is no evidence outlined that this relates to poverty. The Children’s Society were merely attempting to raise awareness about the behaviour of addicts, and the impact of this upon children – not on economic circumstances.

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However, it is the CSJ’s claim that :

“Just 13 per cent of clients presenting to treatment in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland during 2009/10 were employed and in Scotland, 72 per cent reported funding drug use from welfare benefits” (p. 4)[24].

Which clearly evinces their viewpoint that addiction is a major cause of poverty. The source for this data – which, significantly, is not linked to properly by the CSJ  – was a Department of Health report entitled ‘United Kingdom Drug Situation’, published in 2011[25].

What it says does appear to support the CSJ’s claim at first reading:

“Data show that 13% of clients presenting to treatment in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland during 2009/10 were employed (a decrease from 15% in the previous year) and two-thirds were unemployed. Males were more likely to be in employment than females (14% compared to 9%). In Scotland, 72% reported funding drug use from welfare benefits” (p. 16).

So how has this been taken out of context? By pretending that this is a major, if not the primary cause of child poverty. The CSJ and Iain Duncan Smith have persistently attempted to link child poverty to parental drug/alcohol addiction. For example, Duncan Smith’s speech during January 2013, in which he claimed that:

“The Government is currently consulting on a new multidimensional measure of child poverty…A recent poll conducted as part of the consultation process shows that whilst not having enough income is thought to be one important factor other criteria are considered equally or even more crucial. Interestingly, having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol was thought to be the most important factor of all”[26].

This same viewpoint is reiterated by the CSJ themselves:

“But the myths report incorrectly infers from this that respondents believe addiction to be the biggest cause of child poverty. This is not what the DWP poll asked. It asked which factor was most important in deciding whether a child was living in poverty. In other words, it shows that the public think a child is most likely to have their life chances blighted if they grow up with an addicted parent. This is not the same as saying that addiction is the most common factor of all children in income poverty” (p. 4)[27].

Again, however, this is an attempt to use opinion polls to evade an analysis based on actual evidence. As the Children’s Society themselves state explicitly elsewhere: “around 3.8 million children live in poverty in the UK”. 61% of these children have at least one parent in work[28]. Child poverty persists because these parents have insufficient incomes to provide for basic necessities. Money is the critical factor, as should hardly need stating. Parental drug/alcohol abuse may well be a cause of poverty for some children; but it evidently is not the major cause of poverty. That the public believe otherwise merely demonstrates how pervasive this myth is.

The DWP poll in question was undertaken in December 2012. It was designed to serve a political purpose – namely:

” that new measures of child poverty should be developed which would provide a better understanding of the real experience of child poverty in the United Kingdom”[29].

The CSJ chose their words very carefully when they claimed that “this is not the same as saying that addiction is the most common factor of all children in income poverty”. This is not the question the DWP poll asked people. In reality, it what it did ask people to consider was what they believed to be the main reason for poverty:

“This initial survey asked a single question where the respondents were asked what they thought was important in deciding whether someone was growing up in child poverty”[30].

The question being: “Could you please tell me how important you think each of the following are when deciding whether someone is growing up in poverty”. “A child having parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol” was top of the list of factors respondents were asked to evaluate in terms of their importance – and the opinion of most people was that this was the primary reason for determining that somebody is impoverished. As outlined previously, this does not have a basis in reality. The DWP poll demonstrates just how widespread this misconception is.

It is also a total nonsense for the CSJ to imply that the Churches’ report tried to downplay the significance of alcohol/drug addiction – they simply put them in their proper context, noting that:

“In England 6.4% of adults demonstrated some form of alcohol dependence with 0.5% showing moderate or severe levels of dependence. National scale research has failed to demonstrate a correlation between alcohol dependence of any degree and income levels. Despite this the government is proposing to use the alcohol dependency of a parent as an indicator of child poverty. Parental alcohol abuse is certainly a very serious cause of childhood neglect, and should be tackled for this reason. But it is not a measure of poverty and should not be used as such” (p. 18)[31].

Moreover, as the churches had themselves added at this point:

“fewer than 4% of benefit claimants report any form of addiction. How did we come to believe this is such a big factor in the lives of the 13 million people who live in poverty in the UK today?” (p. 4)[32].

The source for this statistic in the churches’ report was a DWP analysis of Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance claimants whose main condition was alcohol addiction or drug abuse, from July 2012, which states that:

“At November 2011, a total of 1.8 million people were claiming IB or SDA, of whom 34,410 (2.0%) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 30,030 (1.7%) a main condition of drug abuse. Of the 857,890 ESA claimants, 21,890 (2.6% – a larger percentage than for IB/SDA) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 12,670 (1.5% – closer to the percentage for IB/SDA) a main condition of drug abuse. Of the 3.2 million people receiving DLA at November 2011, 21,350 (0.7%) had a main disabling condition of either drug or alcohol abuse”[33].

So, it is perfectly clear that there is a massive disparity between 13 million people living in poverty, as opposed to 120,350 people who are disabled/incapacitated by substance addiction. Even if alcohol/drug dependency does cause these people to live in poverty, they amount to 0.9% of all people who are poor. This is quite aside from the issue of people being left poorly by their addictions, and needing support: the fact that this aspect was not even considered by the CSJ makes clear that attributing blame to people for their own deprivation is part and parcel of this myth that alcohol/drugs play a major role in poverty.

Furthermore, the overall rates of substance dependency have decreased:

“Between November 2010 and November 2011, the numbers claiming IB, SDA and ESA combined with a main medical condition of alcoholism decreased by 320 – a decrease of 0.6% – and the number with a main medical condition of drug abuse decreased by 3,480 – a decrease of 7.5%. The number of DLA claimants with a main disabling condition of drug or alcohol abuse increased by 60 – an increase of 0.3%”[34].

These proportions are replicated almost identically year after year[35]. All told, despite the CSJ’s statistical manipulations, it is patent that alcoholism/drug addiction is not the main driver of poverty[36]. Suggestions to the contrary are perpetuations of myth.

The churches had also denounced the highly politicised falsehood that benefit claimants are “are on the fiddle”. As it outlined:

“One of the biggest poverty myths is that benefit claimants are fraudulent and fiddling large sums of money. Over the last 15 years, between 80% and 90% consistently agree with the statement that “Large numbers falsely claim benefits”. The truth is that benefit fraud, whilst unacceptable, accounts for a relatively small part – 0.9% – of the welfare budget, whereas the government estimates tax fraud to be between 4% and 6% of tax income”(p. 21)[37].

As evidence of this myth-making, the churches quote the following:

“The fake disabled are crippling our economy” – James Delingpole, Daily Telegraph, 26 January 2012.

And:

“We estimate that £5 billion is being lost this way [through benefit fraud] each year.” – Chancellor of the Exchequer, House of Commons 20 October 2010.

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The CSJ attempt to rebut that this is mythical, contending that:

“The report argues that the level of benefit fraud is low. Yet it fails to mention that the level of error is very high. Together, fraud and error cost the taxpayer £3.4 billion in 2011/12” (p. 5)[38].

This is a false claim to begin with – the Churches’ report states plainly:

“The cost of errors in the benefit system that lead to people getting underpaid are larger than the bill for fraud” (p. 22)[39].

However, the source for the CSJ’s data is the DWP’s own series of reports on fraud/error in the benefit system[40]. The latest version makes plain that in reality, the error level is not “very high” either[41]. As the DWP note:

“The estimate of total overpayments due to fraud and error across all benefits is £3.4bn; this is 2.1% of the total benefit expenditure”

More specifically: 0.7% of total benefit expenditure is overpaid due to fraud; 0.9% of total benefit expenditure is overpaid due to claimant error; 0.5% of total benefit expenditure is overpaid due to official error.

Not only have the CSJ exaggerated the scale of error, but there are other noteworthy omissions herein: the CSJ choose to make no mention of the DWP reclaiming overpayments; nor do they mention underpayments, and the cost of error to claimants:

“The estimate of total underpayments due to fraud and error across all benefits is £1.3bn; this is 0.8%”[42].

And this is aside from the total amount of money which remains unclaimed each year, which at its most recent estimate (2009-10) was between £8.2 billion – £12.31 billion[43].

But this is all irrelevant to the myth of fraud being at high rates among benefit claimants, when it evidently is not. It is crystal clear that deception by benefit claimants is minimal; and when put in proper context, it simply pales by comparison to levels of fraud in tax – which are estimated to cost the UK as much as £25 billion per year[44].

This pattern of studiously neglecting to mention facts which undermine myths surrounding benefits and poverty is evinced throughout the CSJ’s response.  For instance, in regard to Myth 3: ‘They’ are not really poor – they just don’t manage their money properly’ – the CSJ write three paragraphs, all expressing the supposed value of government welfare reforms: specifically, the changes to housing benefit payments, and the introduction of Universal Credit. This simply does not address what the Churches’ report outlines. The myth in question is that families live in poverty because they are wasteful with money. The churches’ report cites the following:

“In a survey 59% of people thought “‘the poor’ could manage if they budgeted sensibly” (p. 19).

However, as it adds in refutation:

“Save the Children, in its recent report It shouldn’t happen here, expresses admiration that parents on a low income are often adept, out of necessity, at managing on tight budgets and protecting their children from the worst effects of poverty. Even with good budgeting they have recently found in one community that well over half (61%) of parents in poverty say they have cut back on food, and over a quarter (26%) say they have skipped meals in the past year. It is telling that this is occurring as welfare payments are decreasing and the price of essentials such as food and energy are rising considerably faster than inflation” (p. 19)[45].

It is both noteworthy and telling that the only reference to this by the CSJ is dismissive:

“Treating ‘the poor’ as one homogenous group is naïve. There are individuals across the whole income scale who struggle to manage their money properly; some of them are poor and some of them are not. Others manage their finances extremely well” (p. 4)[46].

This has no bearing on the fact that income will continue to be insufficient for many families – and that this situation will worsen, irrespective of how carefully they may budget.

Another more blatant sleight of hand occurs when the CSJ cite an article in the Guardian:

“The report disputes the idea of ‘dependency’ as a serious issue. This is despite the latest available data showing that more than 20 million families are now dependent on some kind of benefit (64 per cent of all families), about 8.7 million of whom are pensioners. For 9.6 million families, benefits make up more than half of their entire income. This equates to 30 per cent of all families. To argue that dependency is not alive and well in the UK today is therefore totally at odds with the facts” (p. 1)[47].

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Let’s look at what the article actually says, because it adds something after the reference to the “9.6 million families, benefits make up more than half of their entire income” which the CSJ chose to omit:

“For 9.6 million families, benefits make up more than half of their income (30% of all families), around 5.3 million of them pensioners.[48]

It is also clear therefore that this statistic does not support claims of benefit-dependency leading to poverty: if nearly 50% of a family’s income is independent of the benefit system, then they are evidently not wholly dependent on welfare. It is also important to do what the CSJ opted not to: consider what these benefits might be – not least of all carer’s allowance, income support, child benefit, working tax credits, Disability Living Allowance, or Incapacity benefit, for instance.

The final myth the Churches’ report looked at was the claim repeatedly made by politicians that “life on benefits is a good one”. It provides the following examples:

“Let’s face the tough truth – that many people on the doorstep at the last election, felt that too often we were for shirkers not workers.” – Liam Byrne MP, Labour Party spokesman for Work and Pensions, 26 September 2011.

“But fairness is also about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits” – Chancellor George Osborne, Autumn Statement 2012

As the Churches’ note:

“This is the mythical life of someone on benefits; one where you can enjoy lying in bed all day, get paid to do whatever you want and have as many children as you want without worrying about the cost. The debate about ’bringing fairness‘ has fed this myth of the privilege of welfare. However, it lacks a firm grounding in the reality of the lives of the families supported by the welfare system” (p. 23)[49].

The CSJ do not actually address this. What they do instead is try to shift the point onto unrelated ground:

“the current level of support provided by out-of-work benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is not excessively generous, at around £71.70 a week for a single person over 25. However, this only accounts for a fraction of the overall population claiming benefits. Life on benefits can be easy for some, because they do not actually need them in the first place. The expansion in the number of people eligible for Tax Credits is an alarming trend which illustrates this well. By 2009, an astonishing nine out of ten families with children were eligible for Tax Credits” (p. 6)[50].

Needless to say, this bears no relevance to what the Churches’ report said; nor to the poverty-myth in question. Those in receipt of Tax Credits – and again, it is telling that the CSJ surreptitiously refer to eligibility, not the number of recipients – clearly do not have a “life on benefits”: it supplements their earnings; it is not the main source of their income. It is also patently disingenuous for the CSJ to pretend that myths surrounding ‘living a life on benefits’ have ever centred on people receiving tax credits. In fact, the CSJ have themselves promoted the myth that workless people choose “a life on benefits”. For example, in one of their own reports they state that[51]:

“we must also be clear that a life on benefits, no matter what their level, is not an option for those able to work. For some, this will require a change of attitude” (p. 309).

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In fact, within this report from 2009, the CSJ had contended that:

“We identified worklessness and dependency, along with family breakdown, educational failure, serious personal debt, and drug and alcohol addiction, as key predictors, or Pathways to Poverty. Benefit dependency is enormously destructive to the fabric of society. It can endure from generation to generation, depriving each new generation of its potential. It deprives many of the belief and hope that they can actually work. It can become its own culture, where the habit of dependency becomes a way of life” (p. 33)[52].

Not only does this encapsulate a number of the myths the churches’ report had criticised, it lays bare how hypocritical it is for the CSJ to pretend that myths surrounding benefit dependency focus on tax credits. The churches had made the focus of their concern clear:

“The majority of those on out-of-work benefits are sick or disabled. The second largest group is the unemployed. The government’s new Wellbeing Index showed that, with the exception of those in bad health, the unemployed were the least happy and least satisfied with life. In general these families give little outward sign of having an easy life” (p. 23)[53].

The churches also referred to the complexities of accessing benefits, the punitive sanctions, high level of mental health problems, poverty, and debt experienced by these people; concluding that far from benefits being generous “only pensioners receive the minimum income standard when solely relying on benefits”(p. 24)[54]. The CSJ studiously ignored these points. What they did do instead was claim that:

“The excessive generosity of the Housing Benefit system (fuelled in large part by a shortage of affordable housing and rising rental costs) has enabled people to claim vast sums. In extreme examples, this has been up to £100,000 in rent per year” (p. 7)[55].

Is this a fair reflection of reality? No. The CSJ cite a Freedom of Information Response in support of this, which states that:

“At December 2010, there were around 10 Housing Benefit claimants eligible for £1,917 or more per week, which would equate to more than £100,000 per annum”[56].

So, there are ‘around 10’ people herein, on this rate, not in receipt of this actual sum of money. However, the Freedom of Information response also notes that “Figures are rounded to the nearest 10” which means the number may be five families, if not less depending on how they have calculated this figure. What is far more representative is the fact that four out of every five Housing Benefit claims are below £100 per week  – the equivalent of £5,200 per year; while only 70 out of c. 4.5 million recipients claimed £1000+ per week, amounting to approximately 0.001% of the total[57]. Again, this benefit is not paid solely to people who are unemployed: nearly 1 million working people would lose their homes without housing benefit; the number of people who work but require housing benefit has increased by 86% since 2010. [58]

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Arguably the most cynical of all is the CSJ’s response to the Churches’ Myth 6: ‘‘They’ caused the deficit’. Why? Because the fiction that welfare expenditure created a deficit in state finances is a case of blaming the poor for their own predicament, in order to justify withdrawing social security from them. The churches’ contested the myth of benefits being out of control:

“Contrary to the common myth, the overall cost of welfare has not been spiralling out of control for years. The proportion of national income spent on welfare has remained surprisingly constant over the past two decades” (p. 27)[59].

Again, the CSJ ignore the claim actually made by the Churches; and instead contend that:

“The poor are not responsible for causing the deficit. However the decision by the previous government to increase welfare spending by around 60 per cent in real terms (and 40 percent in real terms for people of working age) was an extremely expensive one. The report notes that ‘the proportion of national income spent on welfare has remained surprisingly constant over the past two decades’. The truth is that, with a booming economy, it should have fallen substantially as a proportion of GDP” (p. 8)[60].

In reality, these points are deceptive, and fail to acknowledge the substance of the churches’ claim. Government expenditure on welfare did not cause the recession, or the subsequent increase in national debt. More relevant here, expenditure on social security increases by approximately 40% every decade; and prior to the onset of recession in 2008 it was significantly below average, at an increase of c. 32% during the ten year period of the Labour government[61]. This matter has also been taken out of context by the CSJ. As the churches noted:

“Welfare spending is cyclical, rising and falling in response to boom and bust, and the proportion of taxes spent on welfare (averaged out over the economic cycles since the 1980s) has actually stayed fairly flat. Some politicians and newspapers have given the impression that Welfare spending has increased massively by comparing spending figures from the high point of the economic cycle with figures from the lowest point. It is also common to express welfare spending rises as many billions of pounds without giving any context as to how this rise compares to previous spending or to other government spending. In this way we are encouraged to believe that caring for the most vulnerable has caused our nation’s financial problems” (p. 28)[62].

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This final point is evident in the CSJ’s own response, when it tries to apportion the nation’s financial difficulties to the “extremely expensive” decision “by the previous government to increase welfare spending”, which it did not actually do in any meaningful sense.

All told, throughout their response to the churches’ report on myths about poverty, the CSJ misuse data for political purposes. Instead of acknowledging that the notion of personal failings being the cause of poverty is a myth, the CSJ offer highly simplistic and misleading explanations of poverty and its causes throughout their response. At every point they rehearse socially divisive views about those who are poor, and reiterate popular myths surrounding poverty: that benefits are too generous; there is a culture of worklessness; alcohol/drug addiction is optimal; people have an easy life on benefits; the deficit was caused by over-expenditure on welfare. More egregious still is the manner in which they present their case: it is built on a foundation of facts taken out of context, and misapplied to serve highly politicised goals – namely generating support for policies which will make more people poor, and lead those already in poverty to become more impoverished still. There is little wonder it took the CSJ approximately one month to respond to the churches’ report: crafting such an elaborate vein of misleading claims, half-truths, and skilled evasions must have proven incredibly time-consuming.

Update: the Public Issues Team have now published their own response to the CSJ – ‘Response to Centre for Social Justice’.


[1] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[2] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[3] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[4] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[5] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[6] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

Of course, out-of-work benefits are not limited to unemployment support: they can also include incapacity benefit, for example.

[7] ‘Working and Workless Households, 2012 – Statistical Bulletin’ by the Office For National Statistics; 29th August 2012: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lmac/working-and-workless-households/2012/stb-working-and-workless-households-2012.html

[8] ‘Working and Workless Households, 2012 – Statistical Bulletin’ by the Office For National Statistics; 29th August 2012: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_277448.pdf

[9] ‘Labour Market Statistics, September 2012’ by the Office For National Statistics; 12th September 2012: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_276985.pdf

[10] ‘Coalition cuts hit older women hardest’ by Jane Martinson/The Guardian; 28th September 2012:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/28/older-women-hardest-hit-coalition-cuts

[11] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[12] ‘Working and Workless Households, 2011 – Summary of Households Never Worked’, by the Office for National Statistics; 1st September 2011: http://ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_230838.pdf

[13] ‘Working and Workless Households, 2011 – Summary of Households Never Worked’, by the Office for National Statistics; 1st September 2011: http://ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_230838.pdf

see also: ‘Have 1 in 5 households really never worked?’ by Tom Webb/Full Fact; 22nd May 2012:  http://fullfact.org/factchecks/workless_households_unemployment_Frank_Field-27265

And ‘Measuring the intergenerational correlation of worklessness’ by Lindsey Macmillan/Centre for Market and Public Organisation, Bristol Institute of Public Affairs; December 2011: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/papers/2011/wp278.pdf

[14] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[15]  ‘Benefits in Britain: separating the facts from the fiction’ by The Observer; 6th April 2013: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/06/welfare-britain-facts-myths

[16] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[17] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[18] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[19] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[20] The poll in question is not cited accurately by the CSJ – instead, the reference they provide is to one of their own reports, which doesn’t provide an accurate citation either. Footnote 31 on page 19 of the report ‘Dynamic Benefits’ merely says “YouGov poll, commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice, May 2008” in ‘Dynamic Benefits: Towards welfare that works’ by the Centre for Social Justice; September 2009:  http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ%20dynamic%20benefits.pdf

[21] There is no clear evidence available at all, in fact, primarily because there is no real distinction between people who receive benefits, and those who are in employment. For a discussion of the complexities therein, see ‘Better off on benefits than earning £15,000 a year?’ by Channel4/FactCheck; 27th May 2010:  http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/better-off-on-benefits-than-earning-15000-a-year/2841

[22] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[23]  ‘Cash For Kids Appeal: Kerrang!’ by the Children’s Society; 2013:  http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/cashforkidsappeal

[24] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[25]

‘United Kingdom Drug Situation: 2011 Edition’ by the Department of Health; 27th October 2011: http://www.nwph.net/ukfocalpoint/writedir/a5e8focual%20Final%20report%202011.pdf

[26] ‘Speech: Kids Company’ by Iain Duncan Smith; 31st January 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/kids-company

[27] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[28] ‘The relentless rise of in-work poverty’ by Chris Goulden/Joseph Rowntree Foundation; 14th June 2012: http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2012/06/relentless-rise-work-poverty

[29] ‘Public Views on Child Poverty: Results from the first polling undertaken as part of the Measuring Child Poverty consultation’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; January 2013: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2013/public%20_views_on_child_poverty.pdf

[30] ‘Public Views on Child Poverty: Results from the first polling undertaken as part of the Measuring Child Poverty consultation’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; January 2013: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2013/public%20_views_on_child_poverty.pdf

[31] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[32] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[33] ‘Local Authority Breakdown: Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance claimants with main condition of alcohol or drug abuse’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; July 2012: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/ib_sda_esa_dla_drug_alcohol_by_la_july2012.pdf

[34] ‘Local Authority Breakdown: Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance claimants with main condition of alcohol or drug abuse’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; July 2012: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/ib_sda_esa_dla_drug_alcohol_by_la_july2012.pdf

[35] For instance:

“At November 2010, a total of 2.0 million people were claiming IB or SDA, of whom 40,990 (2.0%) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 36,110 (1.8%) a main condition of drug abuse.” (2010)

Of the 600,000 ESA claimants, 15,640 (2.6% – a larger percentage than for IB/SDA) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 10.070 (1.7% – closer to the percentage for IB/SDA) a main condition of drug abuse. Of the 3.2 million people receiving DLA at November 2010, 21,290 (0.7%) had a main disabling condition of either drug or alcohol abuse”

In ‘Local Authority Breakdown: Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance claimants with main condition of alcohol or drug abuse’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; July 2011: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2011/ib_sda_esa_dla_drug_alcohol_by_la_nov2010.pdf

Also:

“At May 2011, a total of 1.9 million people were claiming IB or SDA, of whom 38,910 (2.0%) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 34,080 (1.8%) a main condition of drug abuse. Of the 662,230 ESA claimants, 16,990 (2.6% – a larger percentage than for IB/SDA) had a main medical condition of alcoholism and a further 10,140 (1.5%- closer to the percentage for IB/SDA) a main condition of drug abuse. Of the 3.2 million people receiving DLA at May 2011, 21,340 (0.7%) had a main disabling condition of either drug or alcohol abuse”

In ‘Local Authority Breakdown: Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance claimants with main condition of alcohol or drug abuse’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; January 2012: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2012/ib_sda_esa_dla_drug_alcohol_by_la.pdf

[36] For examples of how this myth has gained ground, see ‘How many have claimed benefits for acne for more than a decade?’ by Hannah Shrimpton /Full Fact; 30th July 2012: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/disability_incapacity_benefits_acne_decade_Mail-27687

[37] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[38] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[39] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[40] The overall DWP web-page is ‘Statistics: Fraud and Error in the Benefit System’ http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/index.php?page=fraud_error

[41] ‘Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: 2011/12 Estimates’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; December 2012: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/fem/fem_1112.pdf

[42] ‘Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: 2011/12 Estimates’ by the Department for Work and Pensions; December 2012: http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/fem/fem_1112.pdf

[43] See ‘Income Related Benefits: Estimates of Take-Up’ on the DWP’s website: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/index.php?page=irb

[44] See ‘Is tax evasion and avoidance costing the taxpayer £25bn per year?’ by Owen Spottiswoode/Full Fact; 22nd February 2013: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/tax_evasion_avoidance_cost_taxpayer_25bn-28789

[45] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[46] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[47] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[48] ‘Benefits in Britain: separating the facts from the fiction’ by The Observer; 6th April 2013: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/06/welfare-britain-facts-myths

[49] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[50] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[51] ‘Dynamic Benefits: Towards welfare that works’ by the Centre for Social Justice; September 2009:  http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ%20dynamic%20benefits.pdf

[52] ‘Dynamic Benefits: Towards welfare that works’ by the Centre for Social Justice; September 2009:  http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ%20dynamic%20benefits.pdf

Compare the sentences “We identified worklessness and dependency, along with family breakdown, educational failure, serious personal debt, and drug and alcohol addiction, as key predictors, or Pathways to Poverty. Benefit dependency is enormously destructive to the fabric of society” to the following excerpt from the CSJ’s response: “any serious measure of poverty must recognise its root causes: family breakdown, economic dependency and worklessness, educational failure, addiction to drugs and alcohol and serious personal debt” (p. 1).

[53] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[54] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[55] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[57] ‘How many families are claiming £100,000 per year in housing benefit?’ by Owen Spottiswoode/Full Fact; 5th November 2012:  http://fullfact.org/factchecks/how_many_families_claiming_100000_year_housing_benefit-28589

[58] ‘Home Truths 2012’ by the National Housing Federation; 2012:  http://www.housing.org.uk/PDF/HomeTruths2012_England.pdf

[59] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

[60] ‘Setting The Record Straight: A CSJ Response To The Truth And Lies About Poverty Report’ by Tom Wardle and Ben Walker/Centre for Social Justice; April 2013: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/Truth-and-lies-about-poverty—CSJ-response-(3).pdf

[61] ‘Is welfare spending ever under control?’ by the BBC; 1st October 2010: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11443372

[62] ‘The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty’ by Joint Public Issues (i.e. the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church); 1st March 2013: http://www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Truth-And-Lies-Report-smaller.pdf

‘The government thinks we don’t care. Let’s show them we do’

Scope’s brilliant photogallery, designed to help “show the Government that Britain cares that disabled people get essential support to lead their lives”:

Britain Cares

“We are a nation of people who care about fairness and freedom.

Yet today, too many disabled people are being denied social care – help to do the basics like getting washed, dressed and out of the house. Essential support to live their lives.

The Government has a choice. Now. Will they right this wrong by funding social care in the upcoming Spending Review, or will they make it even worse by denying more than 100,000 disabled people the lifeline of social care?

It depends if they see people care enough to speak out. Let’s show them Britain cares!”

For the background to this campaign, see Scope’s ‘Care and Support Bill’ blog post here.

Benefits Withdrawal Leads To Man’s Suicide In Helmsley, Yorkshire

From the Gazette & Herald:

 

 

“Mr Barker’s former wife, Linda Barker, who gave evidence at the inquest, said they had been married for 12 years and separated in 1995, although they still saw each other on a regular basis.

“During the first half of our marriage he suffered a brain haemorrhage and although he was ok and could still do things, one side was quite paralysed and he was not able to work,” Mrs Barker told the inquest. “I know he had been on some sort of benefit for a number of years.”

“Mrs Barker said she had last seen Mr Barker on December 8 when he had called to see her at work.

“He was going for a drink and seemed happy but he wanted me to help him go through his benefit papers because he was worried that he was going to be sent back to work,” she added.

“I told him not to worry as he wasn’t able to work and I said I would come and see him.”

Mrs Barker said he was due to attend an appeal hearing on December 18 against a decision to stop his benefits.

“He was always a happy man and never spoke about private matters in public, so I knew this was worrying him as he had talked about it in front of other people,” she said.

A statement from Mr Barker’s doctor said they had spoken on the phone on December 4 and he had been upset because his benefits were being stopped after an annual assessment as he did not have the required number of points to qualify.

Coroner Michael Oakley said that Mr Barker’s death had been a deliberate act and that he had killed himself.

“The main factor worrying him was that his benefits had been stopped and had he attended the appeal he may have been successful, but it did not get that far,” he said. “It is evident that the matter was concerning him greatly.”

Honour Roll

Informative and insightful posts and articles from the last fortnight:

‘The cuts can kill and we must not stay silent’ by Bethan Tichborne (New Internationalist)

‘“American Dream”: Food loaded into Dumpsters while Hundreds of Hungry Americans Restrained by Police’ (Global Research)

See also ‘Food from Augusta grocery store hauled off to landfill after eviction’ (WRDW-TV News)

‘GPs to be paid £33 per patient to assess eligibility for new disability benefit’ (Pulse)

‘Porthleven man Geoffrey Squibb: ‘Penalising disabled is not always the answer’ (This is Cornwall)

‘Blind people hit hard by benefits cuts’ (Isle of Man Today)

‘First evidence on overall impact of welfare reform across Britain’ (Sheffield Hallam University)

See also ‘Hitting The Poorest Places Hardest: The Local And Regional Impact Of Welfare Reform’ (Sheffield Hallam University)

And ‘Austerity Audit’ (Financial Times) which includes an interactive map, demonstrating which areas will be hit with maximum/minimal impact respectively.

A Lifetime On Benefits?

There have been many high-minded claims by government ministers and politicians about people who spend ‘a lifetime on benefits’ in recent years. For instance, in 2010, Employment Minister Chris Grayling fulminated about “two million people on the sick in this country… many will have been put there by a government who thought it was easier just to write people off to a lifetime on benefits”.

In 2011, Grayling again claimed that “Over the last decade thousands of people were simply abandoned to a lifetime on benefits”.

The same year, Liam Byrne scoffed at people “choosing to spend a lifetime on benefits”.

This year, Grayling’s replacement Mark Hoban declaimed that “Never again will people be consigned to a lifetime on benefits when they could be helped into work”.

So how many people have been in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance, for ten years or more?

1,070.

In the same Freedom of Information response, the DWP put the number of JSA claimants at 1,471,070, as of August 2012. In reality, it was 1.57 million. Either way, this means that people who come closest to spending a lifetime on benefits amount to 0.068% of the total number. Even without considering the complexities of these peoples’ circumstances, it is obvious that political rhetoric on this issue is ridiculously overblown.