Since the days of Peter Lilley and his song and dance routine about having a little list, like Gilbert and Sullivan's KoKo, and how he was going to get all these people off said list, we have been demonizing people who claim benefits, without stopping to think about why some of them are claiming.
Politicians from the Tory camp to the Labour camp and now the Liberals have taken pleasure in carping about scroungers. And that's fair enough, because there are scroungers out there. Some of us will know someone who should be working but isn't trying, but that doesn't mean that all or even most of the people who are claiming unemployment benefits of some sort are scrounging.
And it's surprising how many people immediately assume that if you're on the dole you must be swinging the lead, until they, or their son, or niece or grandson is thrown out of work. Then of course, it's a different story and there are, suddenly and mysteriously, no jobs.
Horribly now there is evidence that disabled people, some even in wheelchairs and on sticks are being taunted with the "scrounger" label as they struggle to get on buses or do their shopping. And yes, once again there are people who are fiddling the country, but they are damned few.
A report by the Department of Work and Pensions which looks at overpayments and fraud in the benefits system shows that a very small amount of the benefit that is claimed is actually fraudulent.
The report is for 2010-11 and shows the following:
- 0.8% of benefit spending is overpaid due to fraud, amounting to £1.2 billion;
- This proportion is the same as in 2009/10.
Estimates for different benefits are:
- Retirement Pension 0.0%;
- Incapacity Benefit 0.3%;
- Disability Living Allowance 0.5%;
- Council Tax Benefit 1.3%;
- Housing Benefit 1.4%;
- Pension Credit 1.6%;
- Income Support 2.8%;
- Jobseeker’s Allowance 3.4%;
- Carer’s Allowance 3.9%.
Of all the benefits, retirement pension has virtually no fraud, simply because you have to be over 65 to get it if you are a man, and over 61 if you are a woman. (Incidentally, so much for equality. Can you just imagine the hoo haa if it were the other way round?)
After that you have tiny amounts of Incapacity and DLA which are misclaimed. I'll lay money that the Incapacity Benefit fraud is almost always someone who HAS been ill but is now better, not volunteering that information immediately to DWP, and that the DLA fraud is almost all in the free cars given to the most disabled people on the highest level of help, and which are frequently used by other members of the family for their own use.
I'm happy that the government is looking into that fraud, but these figures (remember they are DWP, or government figures) show that 99.7% of Incapacity Benefit claims are genuine, and 99.5% of DLA are genuine. It seems a pity to be encouraging the nurses at ATOS to take genuinely ill people off these benefits, does it not, and it also seems rather unreasonable to tar everyone with a disability as a scrounger when such a great proportion of them are clearly not...(and all to save money because the bankers and the politicians made, and continue to make, a cock up of running the country).
Would that the same proportion of MPs and Lords could be said to be straight down the middle with their claims. As far as I could make out from the Telegraph's investigation over 50% of their claims were dodgy...
It might be worth remembering too that most of the people in receipt of benefits have paid into National Insurance all their working lives in order to get benefits when something goes wrong in their lives...unlike MPs and Lords who simply fiddled their expenses because they thought they were worth more, and they were sure they would never be found out.