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DWP spin feeds 'unpleasant narrative'

The latest news release from the Department of Work and Pensions is an example of the Government using statistics to fit a narrative that stigmatises the most vulnerable in society as scroungers

That’s according to Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor for the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) of the Methodist Church, Baptists Together and the United Reformed Church.

The DWP press release on Monday stated that almost one million people who applied for sickness benefit have instead been found fit for work.

But in a blog post the following day Mr Morrison, said he read the release ‘rolling my eyes’. 

Mr Morrison, the author of last year’s Truth and Lies Report, which had a section unmasking the myth that thousands of benefit claimants are ‘on the fiddle’, described the one million figure in this latest release as ‘ill-explained’.

The figure applied to Work Capability Assessments (WCA) test results between 2008 and 2013, not people (who can take the test several times), and doesn’t include the number of decisions overturned on appeal.

Mr Morrison added that a wide range of organisations have argued that the WCA, introduced in 2008, is unfair.  ‘Every analysis has shown that the Assessment finds substantial numbers people “fit-for-work” when they simply are not,’ he said.

The result was that in adding test results together from at least three different versions of the test from four and a half years the DWP has added ‘apples and pears, and as far as the press is concerned got scroungers – 1 million of them,’ wrote Mr Morrison.

‘The unpleasant narrative is fed; nastier and straight forwardly untrue stories will flow from these statistics,’ he added.

Revealing that he had received emails from people who have gone through the Assessment process, people who are disabled and feel the benefits system is against them, he said he couldn’t stay silent.  

‘I didn’t want to want to write this blog going over territory explored in some detail in the Truth and Lies campaign.
‘But I decided to write it because of the emails I received after the press coverage.

‘They felt that their communities – even their churches – are judging them badly because of beliefs encouraged by stories like this.

‘Disabled people deserve better than this and Christians and Churches should stand alongside them and demand that they receive it.’

Mr Morrison quoted DWP estimates that the level of Incapacity Benefit fraud is less that 0.3 per cent – the lowest of any means tested benefit.

View both the JPIT blog and the DWP press release here

Baptist Times, 29/01/2014
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