Mail fails as it gets benefit fraud figures badly wrong

Tue, 20/08/2013 - 17:40 -- nick

The Mail has fed its readers more misinformation in its ongoing campaign against social security and claimants.

The paper has splashed a list of the top ten biggest benefit fraudsters in the UK, crediting Ian Duncan Smith as the source, but it has dropped a huge clanger.

At number one, Sly Malik stands accused of claiming £1,031,943 in Jobseeker's Allowance and housing benefit despite owning properties and running businesses.

But blogger Tom Pride has uncovered the real story in Malik's local paper The Barking and Dagenham Post.

It detailed the jobcentre action that nabbed the east Londoner, and the detail that he was made to pay the costs of the two-year investigation - £329.

Far from being the UK's first million-pound fraudster, his conviction was for over-claiming £38,952, a serious amount but less than a twentieth of The Mail's allegation.

The source of the story is highly uncertain, with the newspaper citing both Ian Duncan Smith and 'the government'.

The Department for Work and Pensions, which Smith heads, makes no mention of it in official press releases.

Smith's own website has not had its news section updated since 1st July and includes no word on the list.

The Mail carries no attributed comments to help direct interested readers to the original information; quotes are cited in the article from a 'government spokesman' and a 'Tory minister' - both unnamed.

The lack of attribution and the major mistakes included in the article - all easily checkable - are likely to open the paper to the accusation that it will use any methods to demonise claimants.

This lack of factual basis for its reporting on benefits is likely to be partly responsible for the UK's massive misunderstandings of issues around it, including the belief that 24% of all social security is claimed fraudulently when the real figure is 0.7%.

Tom Pride accused The Mail of inventing the list as well as the figures within it, writing: "I suppose a front page exclusive showing the top ten benefits fraudsters in the country stole little more than 100,000 quid between them wouldn’t be so headline catching, would it?"

UnemployedNet runs a media campaign to demand newspapers improve their coverage of unemployment and benefits issues.

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