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131010benefitdenier

One lie leads to another, as Iain ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith seems to have found out – now that he has started, he can’t stop for fear that he’ll be found out.

Tough. The evidence is available for all to see.

His latest attempt at hoodwinking the public is a press release, Public think benefit cap claimants should work or move, in which even the headline is a lie.

It aims to publicise the results of a survey by Ipsos-MORI, examining public attitudes to the cap. The survey was carried out among more than 2,000 people who were selected to be representative of the UK as a whole.

“The vast majority (70 per cent) of the public think people affected by the benefit cap should be prepared to find jobs or work more hours,” the piece begins. This is accurate, according to the survey being quoted – but it is based on the premise that the benefit cap should be set at £26,000 per year for a workless family, which is significantly lower than what was originally advertised by the DWP – the income of an average working family.

The DWP, imposing the cap, drummed up support by saying it would limit the amount workless families could receive to the same as the average income of a family in work, claiming that this was £26,000. In fact, a working family claiming all the benefits to which it is entitled can get £31,000 – so the cap means workless families are at least £5,000 per year worse-off, a huge gap of 16-17 per cent.

“Two-thirds (65 per cent) say they should be willing to move to a cheaper property,” the release claims – but the Ipsos-MORI report’s summary makes it clear that support for the policy drops to 44 per cent – a minority – and opposition rises to 26 per cent if it means those benefit claimants affected by the cap have to move to other areas to find more affordable accommodation.

The press release, which came out to support the government policy ‘Simplifying the welfare system and making sure work pays’, continues: “Independent research published today (10 October 2013) shows that 60 per cent support the cap even if it means that those affected have to take a job, regardless of the pay.” So now it seems that making work pay is not the objective; cutting wages is the real plan.

“The Ipsos MORI report finds around three-quarters of the public support the benefit cap in principle.” This, at least, is accurate and is no bad thing. Benefits should be lower than wages – they are a safety net that should enable people to carry on living while they find paying work. But in return, employers need to pay a living wage, ensuring that nobody in work has to claim any benefit at all. That, at the moment, is sorely lacking in the UK.

“58 per cent think that politicians needed to do more to reduce the welfare bill.” But they weren’t asked how they thought this should be done, or whether politicians were doing the right things.

“50 per cent think that benefits are too generous.” Among those who’ve received benefits this drops, but surprisingly only to 45 per cent. Among those who haven’t received benefits, 62 per cent thought them too generous.

“11 per cent think the benefits system is working effectively.” But they weren’t asked whether the Conservative-led Coalition was to blame for the poor performance.

At this point, the press release stops quoting statistics – but there is one further piece of evidence that people need to know. It relates to what the people who were surveyed knew about the benefit cap before they answered the questions.

Only 29 per cent knew even a fair amount about the cap before answering the survey’s questions. Of the rest, 42 per cent said they knew “just a little” about it, 18 per cent said they’d heard of it but knew nothing at all about it, and eight per cent had never even heard of it.

So this survey – put out by the DWP as a measure of public support for the Benefit Cap – is in fact a measure of public ignorance.

Why should anybody accept these findings as authoritative? How can we accept the 70 per cent view that people affected by the cap should be prepared to find jobs or work – that’s fewer than those who admitted they don’t know much about it!

In fact, none of these statistics can claim to be authoritative because only a tiny minority of those surveyed knew enough about the subject.

Now look at Iain Duncan Smith’s comment: “Today’s report makes it clear that the public support setting a limit on benefits and the successful delivery of the benefit cap shows we are committed to returning fairness to the welfare state.”

Lie. It shows that most of the public are ignorant about the limit. The successful delivery of a benefit cap set at 17 per cent less than average income shows that he is committed to returning unfairness to the benefit system.

“Claimants affected by the cap need to make decisions about work and housing and what they can afford, just as hardworking families do. We have made sure the support is there to help people back into work and the Benefit Cap and Universal Credit will ensure that work pays.”

Lie. The press release itself states that people are being pressurised into any work they can get – whether it pays or not. Support is not available to get people back into jobs because the jobs aren’t there. And Universal Credit does not work.

The release goes on to state: “Since claimants were first notified of the benefit cap in April 2012, Jobcentre Plus have helped around 16,500 potentially capped claimants into work.” The wording is very careful; notice no mention is made that they moved into work specifically to avoid the cap – Smith and others have been reprimanded over such claims in the past. But the context suggests that the benefit cap is what motivated these people to get jobs, and that is unsupportable as well.

What a shambles.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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