Reason for hope

So whilst Uponnothing is away, I’m taking advantage of my posting privileges.

On Wednesday the Mail front page headline was this: The shirking classes: Just 1 in 14 incapacity claimants is unfit to work

This is classic Mail in so many ways, see how many you can count. These are the ones, I found:

1. Abuse of the poor

2. Abuse of the vulnerable

3. The use of dodgy statistics

4. The headline contradicted by the story

5. A Tax-payers’ Alliance quote

Everyone on incapacity benefit is facing a ‘testing’ process to decide if they are fit for work. Because this began with a pilot system and is now being rolled out we get a drip-drip effect as each set of statistics are released. The way it works, is that the government pay ATOS (A French company) £100m to assess people as belonging in one of three groups; ‘unfit for work’ ‘activity group’ and ‘fit for work.’ This, in principal is a good idea; people who wish to claim Employment and Support Allowance (that is replacing incapacity benefit) by definition will fit into these three groups. And moreover there are a lot of people who cannot work, who want to work and who will be able to work with support. It is even the case that people put into the activity group do get support to help them back into the work place.

The problem lies with the testing process, which according to the Work and Pensions Select Committee is completely flawed. 40% of people who appeal against the ATOS decision get the decision reversed and over 80% are successful if they have expert representation. (The tribunals alone cost the tax-payer £30m). This is of course, buried in the article thus destroying the credibility of the headline…. Overall, so far 160,000 people have successfully appealed.

Let’s have a look at the figures (from the article)

33% drop out before completing the process

39% declared fit for work

17% able to work with support

7% unable to work

Yes I know that the figures don’t add up. So let us look at this for a moment, the headline is claiming that 13 out of 14 people who claim Employment and Support Allowance are ‘Shirkers’ or whichever term of abuse you want to use – that’s 93%. Which isn’t even true on the basis of these figures. 24% are not able to work at present (The 17% in the support group are not able to work, but may be able to do so…). In addition they are assuming and/or implying that the third who don’t complete the process were by definition trying to cheat the system. An assertion for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that over 160,000 people have successfully appealed (which is 14% of the total). Never mind the fact that being turned down even if it is the right decision does not mean that someone was trying to defraud the system – many would have been honestly applying for a benefit they were told they might be entitled to. That’s what they are supposed to do.

These articles make me extremely angry. I don’t have the time, nor do I wish to make and already over-long post even longer, to explain fully the truth behind these stats and how I have no confidence at all in ATOS’s assessments. The point of the article, though, is not to inform and educate but to slur and demonise anyone who is unfortunate enough to be disabled. And that is plain wrong.

But as, you may have noticed, the headline for this post was ‘Reason for hope’ and I promise you my headline will not be contradicted by the body of my article. In general, reading the comments section of Mail articles is darkly amusing and more than a little depressing. Usually the most highly rating comments are those that have swallowed the Mail lies completely and want to be angry at, and abuse whoever is the Mail’s target this time.

But, but! When I looked today, this was the most highly rated comment:

Best rated

Can it be true? Are Mail READERS finally realising that they cannot trust anything they read?

Maybe, just maybe.

AFZ

6 thoughts on “Reason for hope”

  1. At the risk of sounding cynical, aren’t many Daily Mail readers aged 50+? and arent this age group most likely to comment on internet forums? Doesn’t this age group disproportionately claim incapacity benefits, many due to age related conditions?

    If so maybe they are just objecting to being compared to other benefit claiments, who of course they regard as shirkers.

  2. More likely the recent shenanigans has caused some more critically-minded people to start reading and commenting on the Mail’s website. Which suits the Mail just fine: whether they agree or not, they’re readers, which means revenue.

  3. The ‘work related activity’ group aren’t ‘17% able to work with support’.

    This group will include people like my friend with treatment-resistant schizophrenia, who was placed in that group whilst still actually in hospital.

    Work related activity is supposed to be about people doing things to prepare them for eventually maybe going back to work, not that they are able to work now, with or without support.

    In practice, it is much the same as schemes for the long-term unemployed, with most of the ‘support’ being basic literacy & numeracy classes – nothing of help to my friend, who before she was ill got a First class degree, and worked on Cochrane reviews.

    Another common misconception being spread by the Tory press >:(

  4. Brainduck,

    FWIW, I completely agree with you. I deliberately took the Mail article at face value for this point, in order to demonstrate that even if you accept THEIR figures, the article is self-contradictory.

    The more I learn about the ATOS process, the more I am convinced that is a political fix to enable to demonizing of anyone on benefits thereby making cutting support to the most vulnerable in our society politically possible.

    I didn’t put that in my post because, that is opinion, and whilst I am sure my conclusions are accurate, I wanted to emphasise that knowledge of the most basic of facts proves the Mail story wrong.

    AFZ

  5. Excellent post.For a while now I’ve noticed the Mail distorting figures on incapacity benefit statistics and leaving out salient counter points. They never mention the massive amount of people who win their appeals. They never mention any disability charities or Citizens Advice Bureax opinions on ATOS and ESA medical tests(probably because they are extremely negative of both). Let’s not forget that those on old incapacity benefit were TOLD to by their G.P. AND tested by ATOS (using different illness descriptors) in order to claim the benefit in the first place. The new ESA test moves the goalposts by a country mile and claims it’s discovered loads of workshy scroungers! Not true. If the definition of incapacity or disability is changed enough anyone could be deemed fit for work.

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