Statistics authority raps Ian Duncan Smith on benefits claim

Thu, 09/05/2013 - 19:15 -- nick

Ian Duncan Smith's claim that 8,000 people have left benefits due to his new cap has been denied by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Duncan Smith had claimed that this fall showed that limiting claimant families to a maximum of £26,000 per year in benefits was having the desired effect:

"Already we've seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact."

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) disputed the claim and wrote to Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, to query it.

Dilnot wrote back to the TUC, saying:

'We have concluded that the statement attributed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that 'Already we've seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact', is unsupported by the official statistics published by the Department on 15 April. The release Ad-hoc statistics on JobCentre Plus activity, from which the 8,000 figure appears to be drawn, explicitly states that the figures are 'not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact'.'

Dilnot has written to Duncan Smith to tell him that his statement is not compliant with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics:

'In the manner and form published, the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice, particularly in respect of accessibility to the sources of the data, information about the methodology and quality of the statistics, and the suggestion that the statistics were shared with the media in advance of their publication.'

This is not the first time the Secretary of State has fallen foul of the Statistics Authority.

The TUC says:

'In January 2012 the UK Statistics Authority rebuked him for his handling of figures on benefits claimed by immigrants. And in 2010 he was criticised by the watchdog's former head, Sir Michael Scholar, for 'serious deficiencies' in his use of statistics during a debate on housing reform.'

Get the full text of Andrew Dilnot's letter to the TUC here.

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Submitted by gdominey on

The Secretary of State claimed that the benefits of 56,000 people would be reduced in the Benefits Cap pilot area. Later this was reduced to 40,000. He claimed that 8,000 of the reduction was due to people signning-off in anticipation of the Cap. He never explained the other 8,000 reduction. Now it seems that the entire 16,000 was exageration. I personally doubt that the 40,000 figure is robust.

This measure was piloted in three London Boroughs and it is probably only in London that rents will be high enough to create benefit payments of £350 per family or £190 for a single person. Consequently, I conclude that few people outside London will have their benefits reduced and the Benefits Cap will not save the public purse much money at all.

It therefore has to be seen as one of a series of measures aimed at implying that benefit recipients are well off or undeserved. They have been introduced to soften up the public for cuts to the incomes of the poor whilst corporation tax and income tax reductions give more to the rich.