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Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates the size of the Department for Work and Pensions' latest exaggeration of the truth. He seems to think it's comparatively small!

Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates the size of the Department for Work and Pensions’ latest exaggeration of the truth. He seems to think it’s comparatively small!

Here’s a fascinating letter to Jay Danielle Waller from her MP, which she posted to the Facebook page of The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos, describing it as “full of rhetoric and LIES”.

Let’s go through it together and pick out some of the choicer morsels.

“Thank you for your email. To be frank with you with regards to your first point, I am afraid I will not be demanding a vote of no confidence against the Coalition government. The reforms that are being implemented are absolutely necessary and absolutely right given the utterly disastrous legacy we inherited from the last government.

“Our reform of welfare is not just about cost-cutting (although our annual welfare bill does amount to over £160 billion a year) [£159 billion, in fact, of which 46 per cent is the State Pension – £73.14bn. Meanwhile, just three per cent – £4.77bn – goes on Jobseekers Allowance] but we are restoring confidence to a system which caused many thousands of people to be better off by sitting at home and claiming benefits rather than encouraging them to get up and going to work – this is simply not right [The problem isn’t that people are claiming benefits – it’s that there aren’t any jobs. A survey by Unison found there are four jobseekers for every vacancy in the UK. More than 1,700 people applied for eight jobs at Costa Coffee in Nottingham]. And it is for that reason why we have implemented an annual benefits cap of £26,000; gone are the days when families can claim up to £100,000 a year in Housing Benefit alone! [Ah, but how many families were ever able to claim such a huge amount? I’ll give you a clue: five. Last year, only 30 families in the UK were claiming more than £50,000. Housing benefit totals 14 per cent of the welfare budget – £22.26bn – and 90+ per cent of claims since the Coalition came to office have been made by working people, with an extra 10,000 claims made every month, last time I checked] I hope you appreciate that these reforms are tackling a something-for-nothing dependency culture which flourished during the years of the last government. [The MP provides no evidence to substantiate this claim]

“Your point about ATOS is an interesting one. Whilst I understand that some mistakes are reported and it is only right that they are rectified, [according to a debate last year, 38 per cent of decisions are appealed, and 38 per cent of those appeals are upheld – costing £26.3 million in judicial costs at last check] the actual process is something I support. It is also only right that recipients are required to demonstrate they should still receive payment and not to do so would undermine public confidence in the welfare system as a whole. The current Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) which ATOS administer were actually designed and developed in 2008 to be implemented in June 2010. These assessments have received universal support from all three major parties. [Shame on you, Labour! SHAME!] Another interesting note is that since ATOS began testing current Employment Support Allowance (ESA) recipients, almost 900,000 voluntarily refused to take the test and have since had their payments stopped. This raises a pretty important question: how come these 900,000 were in receipt of the benefit in the first place? [They weren’t – this is probably the most despicable part of the letter. The figure he quotes is the ‘natural wastage’ figure of people who claimed, in accordance with the law, and then either got better, got a job they could do despite their illness or disability, or died – therefore they stopped claiming the benefit before taking the test. It is also worth noting the high number of people who are kept in pre-assessment limbo by the DWP and Atos – the longer they are left with no award, the more likely they are to stop their claim] According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) many [how many?] were claiming for ailments such as acne and a rather ambiguous ‘bad back’.

“Your final point about the NHS is one which I have heard many times before. There are numerous myths and falsities surrounding our reforms which need to be corrected. Firstly, NHS spending is increasing in real-terms in each year of this Parliament. [A lie. Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, has demonstrated a real-terms cut in NHS spending since the Coalition government took over] Indeed, the former Labour Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, famously called any real-terms increase in spending “irresponsible.” [He said he would protect levels of spending] Secondly, we’ve also seen 6,000 new doctors and 7,000 less managers since May 2010, lowest waiting times in history and almost the total abolition of mixed-gender wards. This is opposite to the Labour-run health service in Wales where there have been deep cuts in health spending [They love talking about Wales, where the Labour-run administration must make the best decisions possible on how to spend the rapidly-decreasing allowance it receives from the Coalition-run Westminster government – a real-terms funding cut of £2.1 billion. In Wales, there has been no reduction in frontline staff, especially nurses, unlike in England].

“I’m afraid for the reasons stated above I am unable to accept your sentiments or your request that I demand a vote of no confidence against the government. While my reply may not satisfy all of your concerns, I sincerely hope I have at least explained my reasoning.

“Thank you once again for getting in touch. It’s always interesting to hear my constituents’ issues and concerns. If I can be of any more assistance with this or any other matter – local or national – please do not hesistate to get in contact again.”

That was fun, wasn’t it? It shows the level of deception the Coalition government is trying to foist upon us – a level also highlighted in a New Statesman article, ‘Lies, Damn Lies, and Department for Work and Pensions Statistics’.

This gorgeous piece starts by quoting The Economist (!), which has described the DWP’s statistical output as “raw sewage”. I urge you to read the rest for yourself.

Now, fellow blogger Jayne Linney, together with Debbie Sayers, has launched a petition on the Change.org website, demanding that Iain Duncan Smith be made to account for his – and his department’s – questionable use of statistics.

“As two disabled people affected by the benefit changes, we’re fed up with the spin,” they wrote in a joint statement. “That’s why we’ve started a petition on Change.org calling for Iain Duncan Smith to be held accountable for his use of statistics which, according to reports, is in question. Click here to sign.

“Iain Duncan Smith needs to realise that what he says affects people. We live everyday with the reality of the benefit changes and it’s awful to keep hearing people like us portrayed as scroungers. Worse, it’s not the only the only misleading thing that Iain Duncan Smith has said. He was recently criticised by the former Chief Economist at his own department for spreading misinformation about the impact of welfare changes.”

The petition can be found here.

I strongly recommend that you visit the site, sign it, and hold this pathological liar – and his department of pathological liars – to account.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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