Thursday 30 August 2012


I read on The Potter Blogger, this series of Myth Busters about sickness/disability, and other benefits claimants, originally produced by Red Pepper.

At a time when the government in Westminster is allowing/encouraging us to believe that 88% of people who have been claiming this kind of benefit, have, in fact, been cheating the country out of money, because they ARE capable of work, while, ironically, the government is closing down Remploy factories left, right and centre, and when disability hate crime is increasing, I thought it was worth a repeat run here and so, with George's permission, here it is:

Welfare reform is almost inevitably contentious. Answering the question of who should receive how much financial support relies on often competing conceptions of fairness, with rival views about who needs, and who deserves, our help, not to mention the most just and efficient way of providing it. These issues are worth debating – but the current debate is being conducted on shoddy terms. Myths and stereotypes abound. These serve not only to unfairly stigmatise claimants, but to obscure the questions we might want to answer about how best the state can provide support to people who need it. 

Myth: There is a major problem of ‘families where generations have never worked’ 

Reality: The academics Paul Gregg and Lindsay MacMillan looked at the Labour Force Survey, the large-scale survey of households from which we get most of our statistics about who’s in work. In households with two or more generations of working age, there were only 0.3 per cent where neither generation had ever worked. In a third of these, the member of the younger generation had been out of work for less than a year. 

When they looked at longer-term data, they found that only 1 per cent of sons in the families they tracked had never worked by the time they were 29. What’s more, while sons whose fathers had experienced unemployment were more likely to be unemployed, this only applied where there were few jobs in the local labour market. So ‘inter-generational worklessness’ is much more likely to be explained by a lack of jobs than a lack of a ‘work ethic’. 

Myth: Most benefits spending goes to unemployed people of working age 

Reality: The largest element of social security expenditure (42 per cent) goes to pensioners. Housing benefit accounts for 20 per cent per cent (and about one fifth of these claimants are in work); 15 per cent goes on children, through child benefit and child tax credit; 8 per cent on disability living allowance, which helps disabled people (both in and out of work) with extra costs; 4 per cent on employment and support allowance to those who cannot work due to sickness or disability; 4 per cent on income support, mainly for single parents, carers and some disabled people; 3 per cent on jobseeker’s allowance; and 2 per cent on carer’s allowance and maternity pay, leaving 3 per cent on other benefits. 

Myth: Benefit fraud is high and increasing 

Reality: The latest Department for Work and Pensions estimates show that in 2011/12 just 0.7 per cent of benefit expenditure was overpaid due to fraud, including a 2.8 per cent fraud rate for jobseeker’s allowance and a mere 0.3 per cent for incapacity benefits. Even if we put together fraud with ‘customer error’ – people who are not entitled to benefits but not deliberately defrauding the state – the rate of false claims is 3.4 per cent for JSA and 1.2 per cent for incapacity benefit. 

The claim that benefit fraud is increasing is similarly false. Because there have been changes in how fraud has been calculated over time, we have to look at combined fraud and ‘customer error’ for JSA and income support. This declined from 9.4 per cent to 4.8 per cent of spending from 1997/98 to 2004/05, and has since stayed roughly flat. 

Myth: Couples on benefits are better off if they split up 

Reality: This one has recently been comprehensively disproved by research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who concluded: ‘The simplest question that can be asked in testing the couple penalty is: does the benefits system provide a different proportion of a family’s daily living needs if they live together and if they live apart? The clear answer from the calculations in this paper is no. The benefits system provides very similar living standards to families living together and apart.’ 

Research in 2009 for the Department for Work and Pensions looked at whether different benefit systems had any impact on people’s decisions about whether to stay together or not. They concluded that ‘on balance, the reviewed literature shows that there is no consistent and robust evidence to support claims that the welfare system has a significant impact upon family structure’. 

Myth: The welfare bill has ballooned out of control 

Reality: The government has repeatedly claimed that welfare expenditure grew unsustainably under Labour. In fact, total expenditure on welfare was 11.6 per cent of GDP in 1996/97; under Labour it averaged 10.7 per cent up to the crash. Afterwards benefits for children and working age adults rose from an average 4.9 per cent of GDP up to 2007/08 to 6 per cent. This is what you would expect during a recession. 

Myth: Most benefit claims are long term 

Reality: The government persistently frames benefit claimants as ‘languishing in dependency’. So how much of the benefit caseload is long-term? It depends whether you count people at a single point in time or look at people moving on and off benefits over a period. The numbers paint a completely different picture. For example, in 2008, some 75 per cent of incapacity benefit claimants had been receiving the benefit for more than five years, and only 13 per cent for less than one year. But over the period 2003–8, only 37 per cent were long-term while 38 per cent were on benefit for less than a year. So if you count claimants at just one point in time, as government tends to do, you will overestimate how much of the caseload is long-term – and underestimate how many people move on and off benefits over time. 

Myth: Social security benefits are too generous 

Reality: Out of work benefit levels fall well below income standards based on detailed research into what ordinary people think should go into a minimum household budget. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that while pensioners do in fact receive 100 per cent of what people think they need, a single adult of working age receives 40 per cent of the weekly minimum income standard and a couple with two children receives 62 per cent of the weekly minimum. 

Myth: Most people who claim disability benefits could be working 

Reality: There are two main kinds of disability benefits: disability living allowance (to cover the extra costs of disability) and employment and support allowance (income replacement for those not in employment). The most basic misunderstanding is that the latter is only for people who are ‘completely incapable of work’. The welfare reformer Sidney Webb commented in 1914 – in the midst of one of many previous panics about ‘true disability’ – that the only people who could do no work at all were ‘literally unconscious or asleep’. The question is whether suitable jobs exist, and whether these people would be able to get them. 

Once we understand this, three problems face us. First, just because we’re living longer doesn’t mean we’re in better health; improved medical care means that many people born with impairments or suffering traumatic injuries are able to live longer. Second, jobs are in some ways worse than in the early 1990s: people have to work harder and have less control over their job, which makes it more difficult for people with health problems to stay in work. And while we now have anti-discrimination legislation, this only forces employers to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments; the evidence not only suggests these are often limited, but that employers are less willing to employ disabled people as a result. 

Finally, many of the people claiming incapacity benefits are people with low employability in areas of few jobs. These are the very employers that are less likely to make adjustments. Some people end up in a situation where they are not fit enough to do the jobs they can get, but can’t get the jobs they can do. 

Completely incapable of work? Not necessarily. Penalised for their disability by a labour market that has no place for them? Definitely. 

*Cartoon from here.


  1. "And while we now have anti-discrimination legislation, this only forces employers to make ‘reasonable’ adjustments; the evidence not only suggests these are often limited, but that employers are less willing to employ disabled people as a result."

    Just wondering Tris. As you said we now have anti discrimination legislation. Do you think this legislation could could be used by people who are FORCED back to work by the government's lap dog, ATOS, against the government. After all it is the government who are using ATOS to force disabled people back into work, the majority of which as I recall win their appeals. This only leads to MORE expense in the benefit system as they have to defend their original decision.

    Perhaps if the government REALLY wanted to save money they would look at "attacking" the bankers, rich etc. Oops I forgot they can't do that, the bankers and rich etc are the government's bosom buddies!

  2. The main thing, and I always knew this anyway is, you can't force people to take jobs if the jobs just aren't there.

    We often have this debate on facebook (I know, get me and my networking ways...) On one side we have impractical socialism where people on benefits of what ever kind are as pure as the driven snow and noble in their hardship. Then at the other end you have that hard nosed slightly simplistic libertarian view about peopl looking after themselves and all the noble morality guff you get with that.

    The reality is, living with constant financial hardship is crap and very few people would do it voluntarily. When you couple that with constant discomfort its a pretty rubbish existence on its on.

    As for Atos and the current (and last) westminster government, that is indefensible. There are something that should remain in the public domain and should not farmed out to heartless profit driven corporate concerns.

    Arbroath is right, they should be concentrating on the source of the problem, the current economic clusterfuck in which we're all embroiled.

  3. Well, they seem determined not to hit the bankers and top businessmen, lords and the royals.

    They seem to think that if they ask the rich to pay a penny more they will all flee to Bahrain or some such place.

    If they want to do that as far as I'm concerned they can p*ss off. That kind of greedy toad is the kind of person we can do without.

    Frankly I doubt they would. Cameron lied through his teeth about people leaving Scotland because of the independence debate... there is no reason to suppose he isn't doing it now.

    But what they appear to want to do is withdraw legal aid from people who are challenging the ATOS decisions. This will mean that chronically sick and disabled people, some undergoing chemo-therapy will have to tackle their appeals on their own.

    What a suitable country to host the paralympics, and what a suitable company (Atos) to be sponsoring them (doubtless to curry favour so that they will be awarded further massive contracts to wipe out DLA recipients).

    And people are proud to be British? Jeez... there's nowt as queer as folk!

  4. I reckon you could watch this video and just change Obama/Democrats to Tories(RED,BLUE or YELLOW)/Bitter Together and it would have the same effect.

  5. Yes Pa... I think there are out and out crooks in the benefits system...well, I know that there are. I've met them.

    Girls who get pregnant just in time to stop anyone coming after them; guys who lie about where the live so that they can maximise the benefit that they and "the bird" get.

    There are people who claim incapacity because of back problems and yet are refereeing football matches, or running marathons.

    You can guarantee the Daily Mail will find them. Some much better if they are Eastern European, lesbian and have 18 children. (Although that's maybe too much even for the Mail...but you get my drift.)

    Even official figures, which I'm sure the government maximises, show incredibly low rates of fraud, compared say with Barclays...or MPs' expenses.

    The rest of the people on these benefits are genuinely ill. Yes there may be things that in theory they could do, but the reality is that no one in a thousand years would take them on to do it, because it would be a nuisance and cause extra work.

    When there are 4 million able bodied people who are unemployed, the disabled or sick have absolutely no chance.

    Brutal but honest.

    No one chooses to live on the pittance the government pays; no one wants to be sick; no one chooses cancer, or depression or heart disease.

    The government was warned by their own social security advisors, before thy embarked on this programme (indeed I think it was Labour at the time, for it is more or less the same programme), that while the scheme had some merit, now was the wrong time to implement it.

    When unemployment is rising it is not the right time to be trying to get employment for the sick.

  6. Sorry for going O/T Tris, but did you know that Barclay's are under investigation AGAIN! This time by the SFO.

    I don't care what ANYONE says about bankers, they are the BIGGEST bunch of crooks alive. Yet here we are discussing the DISGUSTING and DEPLORABLE actions being undertaken by the Tories (RED,BLUE AND YELLOW!)

    It is patently obvious to me that the Tories have absolutely NO intention of cutting down on White collar crime. Why? Well it's quite simple really. To cut down on white collar crime would require the trial and imprisonment of MOST of the Tories backers and supporters! WE can't have now can we?

    Just another wee aside while I'm on.

    What are the chances that wee Ozzy will follow the lead of France and CUT fuel duty?

    Let's just say I'm NOT going to hold my breath over this one!

  7. Barclays are totally disgusting, Arbroath.

    And at the time that they got themselves into this current scrape, they were congratulating themselves that they were not asking Brown for a bale out, like RBS and Halifax.

    I doubt he will cut any duty. He simply can't afford to.

    (Now watch: he will announce it this evening, just to make me look like a prat.)

  8. Naw he wouldn't do that would he Tris?

    I didn't think he had enough common sense to read what the REAL people in Britain think.

  9. Oh dear are we worried?

    I'm not worried, but I know a group of individuals who are!

  10. No, I'm not worried either.

    In the end the Scottish people will do what the Scottish people want. I know Moore is a Liberal, but let's be honest, they are all being tarred with the same brush here, and I suspect that many neither know not care what Moore is.

    He will simple be seen as another bossy Tory telling us what to do.

    And that usually means that the SNP ratings go up.

    God, Michael Moore impatient, or annoyed, or angry even... how frightening...

  11. tris

    Vote for the snp to stop the (English) Torys is little bit worn these days.
    A lot of snp voters are Conservatives in fact the probability is 'IF' (as a wacky thought experiment) Scotland left our sacred Union ultimately the Conservatives would rule either as conservatives or under the banner of the snp.

    Arbroath 1320

    If dear boy if you wish to be taken seriously then i suggest quoting from Numptynet scotland is not the way to go.

    Most Nats snp included have long ago given up on Numptynet as reputable and reliable source of information.

  12. Would that be why the SNP government are introducing left of centre policies, which the Labour party borrowed for the election...?

    But I accept there are some right wingers who want independence, just as there are left wingers, Labour voters who want independence, and indeed Liberal votes.

    No one knows how people will vote after the election, but if you present left of centre policies you are likely to be in with a shout.

  13. Oops methinks I've upset wee Niko is starting to lose the plot. Come to think about it did he ever HAVE the plot to begin with?

    Just a wee thought here. What EXACTLY makes our wee union SACRED Niko? Was it sanctified by the Pope or Church of England or something?

    You obviously missed this link on another story, so just for you Niko here it is again.

    "If dear boy if you wish to be taken seriously then i suggest quoting from Numptynet scotland is not the way to go.

    Most Nats snp included have long ago given up on Numptynet as reputable and reliable source of information."

    First off try LASS NOT BOY and you might get somewhere Niko.

    Secondly, I guess you are from the same school of PANIC as Moore, other wise what does it matter where the articles come from as the stories are OUT there.

    ANYONE who wants to dig deeper into any article can do so with relative ease. You know there is something called the INTERNET out there Niko. ANYONE who wanted to uncover fact or fiction about any particular story just needs to check the facts on line. There are plenty of other sources that will no doubt prove or dismiss a particular article.

    Obviously you can't be er*** getting off your butt taking your thumb out your er** and checking ANY story. I guess your just happy sitting down and reading the Daily Mail, that font of all knowledge concerning EVERYTHING Scottish and referendum related.

  14. I think he meant SCARED not SACRED, Arbroath. :)

  15. Got to admit Tris scared makes MORE sense. :lol:

  16. Sorry for going O/T Tris but5 thought you'd like this piece by Gavin McCrone in the Hootsmon.

    I think it will open quite a few "eyes" of those who still read the Hootsmon.

  17. Thanks for that Arbroath.

    Going off topic is perfectly fine, especially when it draws readers' attention to articles like this.

    Just how sad and frustrating life in Scotland is, and all because of what London has done with our opportunities.

    It's worth another copy and past article. I don't say that Munguin's Republic has a massive readership, but it probably beats the Scotsman's!

  18. WHIT?

    The Hootsmon has READERS!

    OMG. Whatever next, Davidson is proved right and we have unilateral nuclear disarmament in rUK AFTER Independence?

  19. Oh dear, poor wee Ozzy in the the sh*** AGAIN!

    Looks like the CBI aren't too keen on how the "excellent" recovery is going.

    I have it on good authority that this is wee Ozzies favourite song.

  20. Down, down, down.... when it cold be up, up, up...

  21. Thought you click onto what I was thinking there Tris. :LOL: