Tuesday, 26 July 2011

DWP Uses BBC as Puppet Yet Again

Today the Work and Pensions Committee released its long-awaited report into the widespread failings in the ATOS execution of the ESA Work Capability Assessment - disabled people being hounded out of their benefits by a foreign-owned multinational with a cushy government contract, sounds like just the kind of story to get any journalist to roll out their righteous indignation, right?

But no, what do the BBC lead with: "Tests claim few benefit claimants 'unfit to work'", with the Work and Pensions Committee report relegated to halfway down the page with a suggestion that there has been 'some criticism' rather than the near universal criticism that is the reality. Purely by coincidence (yeah, right - the last quarterly report released on a Wednesday, not a Tuesday), the DWP have chosen today to release their new ESA figures, again claiming that only 7% of ESA claimants are unfit for work. As I showed in my analysis of the BBC report on the previous figures a more reasonable interpretation would be that 43% of people assessed are unfit for work. Interestingly the DWP's own page on the press release states "New statistics published by DWP today show that over a third (39 per cent) of those who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are assessed as fit for work." So that would be 61% not assessed as fit to work by the DWP's own statement, when did 61% become 'few'?

That the BBC have to include an 'Analysis' section in their report explaining that the figures are more complex than whether someone is unfit for work or not and have to be taken in context (a context the article fails to provide), no matter the implication the headlines will already have firmly implanted in the reader, suggests that there is division within the newsroom on how the story should be handled, with the authors recognising that the form of the story as cast by editorial diktat will be fundamentally misleading; and if that is the case, then isn't the BBC failing to meet the requirements of its Charter that it serve the public interest?

We've grown to expect the disablist propaganda of the DWP and the outright bigotry of the Daily Mail, a hate-mongering rag which makes the late and unlamented News of the World look like an edition of the Church Times, but shouldn't we expect better of the BBC, shouldn't we DEMAND better of the BBC?


  1. I hate to contradict you, but the opposite of "assessed as fit for work" is not "assessed as not fit for work" but also includes "not assessed at all". 36% of claims were withdrawn, which might mean that those 36% had a short-term condition which got better. Or it might mean that those 36% were so terrified at the idea of the Atos test that they decided not to claim. You decide. I only know of people in the second category.

    But, as I said in my earlier post today, I agree that the 7% unfit to work figure is looking at it pessimistically. In fact of all the people they assessed *to completion*, 11% were assessed as not fit to do any kind of work at all, and 27% were only fit to do any work with appropriate support. So, 38% were awarded ESA at some level.

    I guess you can do anything with statistics... and Atos usually does!

  2. Flash, when I said "43% of people assessed are unfit for work" in reference to my earlier piece (linked at 'my analysis') I very specifically meant people who had completed the entire assessment and appeals process and had been placed in WRAG or the Support Group, and had recomputed the percentages to exclude people who did not complete the assessment process. And I linked the earlier article to Mary's 'Abandoned Claims' article about why that might be - in fact my own experiences show that a considerable number of people are likely to be intimidated out of the process.

    It's very interesting that DWP (not ATOS) chose today to spin their latest statistics. They were due, but the last set appeared on a Wednesday and we have to conclude that they were released today specifically to distract from the Work and Pensions Committee report, which is extremely critical of the way the DWP have been spinning stories in the press. And yet that's precisely how they set about undermining the Committee's report....

  3. Ah, thanks for explaining the maths. I think I got lost on the way, my apologies.

  4. How do we give them a kicking over this?

  5. Ok, maybe my last comment was modded, fair enough :D Is there any way of complaining about this? Standard BBC website complaints form? And no-one say it won't do any good, it'll be catharsis for me right now.

  6. I agree with the main thrust of the article above. It's shameful the way the BBC is always ready to show David Cameron spouting on and on about "people being abandoned for years on benefits, and now we're doing something about it" [knocking them off benefits with no alternatives in place...] - yet are unable to do the 'balanced reporting' thing that's in their Charter, and show the other point of view .. that the tests are flawed and failing.

    Sorry to carp about your maths by the way, but fresh from watching Marcus de Sautoy (LOL) I can report that 39% and 71% add up to 110%. 61%, I think?

  7. Jan: you can indeed complain about a BBC web page, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/ Their usual response is to claim they showed both sides and therefore the article is balanced, no matter that one interpretation may be overwhelmingly favoured.

    TiddK: good catch, and the article should be corrected by the time you see this.

  8. I was dismayed by the way these figures were reported on the BBC (Today programme) with the clear implication that 75% of ESA claimants are malingering spongers.

    My 22 year-old son was granted ESA at the level of "fit for work-related activities". He has a congenital learning disability and all of his education has been in special school/colleges. At the Job Centre, I asked the advisor to explain what constitutes "unfit for work". She told me (several times) that "unfit for work" is only for people who are terminally ill.

    It has so far proved difficult to find my son any voluntary work or work experience, let alone paid work. I'm grateful for the benefit he gets, but concerned that the prevailing attitude may mean that it is reduced or withdrawn, when he has no realistic chance of earning a living.

    By the way, if I had not been available to complete the 30-page application document, there is no way my son could have proceeded with his claim.

  9. What I don't get is DWP made me homeless last year because they messed up my payments. I made complaint. I then had an arrangement that with the new job center I was attending I had to do is hand in my sick note. but the last have involved a lot of stress and it has taken this time three days of attending and I still have no knowledge of if i will get any money next week, It hard to manage money I sometimes dont have light or heat. cause the money is hard with food prices rising so delays on payments cause issue because my electric might go or made no food and being told to wait three days on a phone no one want to answers is a problem and makes me ill. When you ask staff for they unhelpful and quite Frankly most time ignorante and don't give a damm. tell you wait on the phone when you get through oh well call you back they don't most times if you miss the call you have walk there again. How can be allowed to happen and why? Mental health claimant.