We’re close to recession and yet the BBC picks on benefits claimants


3:24 pm - November 3rd 2011

by Sue Marsh    


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So at a time of the worst recession for a generation, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

With Sickness benefit fraud at just 0.5%, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

With Disability benefit fraud at just 0.3% the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

With government overpayments actually costing the country more than sickness/disability benefit fraud, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

At a time of rising disability hate crime, stigmatisation and abuse, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

At a time of the biggest erosion of welfare provision in our lifetimes, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

At a time of corruption of MPs, corruption of our media, corruption of our police force, the BBC make another programme about benefit cheats?

Do you make any attempt to point these things out in your programme? Indeed, do you point out that the cases you use are extreme and very, very rare?

Do you mention that before the recession Britain had one of the highest work participation rates in the OECD? Do you explain that until the credit crunch UK benefit levels were amongst the lowest in Western Europe? Do you balance your programme by mentioning that our number of claims are on a par with other countries, not higher?

Do you explain to your viewers that benefits in the UK are some of the toughest to get in the world? That we have the toughest sanctions in place? Do you point out that benefit claims have not been rising for a long time and that in fact between 1997 to 2007 they fell consistently?

No. I’m sure you don’t

This is a very dangerous game the BBC are playing. I’m sure the coalition are delighted, but perhaps you have some duty to the 5 million sick and disabled people who watch your programmes and pay your licence fee? Or those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own? Or those single parents with very young children.

Shame on you.

Sent to panorama.reply@bbc.co.uk
Re : Britain on the Fiddle, 8pm, BBC1 tonight.

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About the author
Sue is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She blogs on Diary of a Benefits Scounger and tweets from here.
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Reader comments


“I’m sure the coalition are delighted, but perhaps you have some duty to the 5 million sick and disabled people who watch your programmes and pay your licence fee?

Well, this is part of the point, isn’t it? How do those who are out of work pay for a luxury like the licence fee?

DK

2. Man on Clapham Omnibus

We’re talking State TV thats why. There are usually many examples on the news everyday. Maybe its because the Goverment pays for the Corporation.

MOCO @ 2

Maybe its because the Government pays for the Corporation.

But it doesn’t. Licence payers do.

@2

‘Maybe its because the Government pays for the Corporation’

So what is this Licence Fee that people pay then?

Well said. I nearly choked on my cornflakes this morning when the presenters of BBC Breakfast, in an item about this Panorama special, made reference to £22bn of taxpayers’ money being lost to fraud and error every year, with “a high proportion of that” being benefit fraud. An uninformed viewer would have come away with the impression that the costs of benefit fraud are at least ten times greater than they actually are. Cameron’s figure of £5.2bn looked dodgy enough (since two thirds of that is error, not fraud), but this was on a whole other level.

We rarely watch the BBC, is there a way of getting out of paying the licience fee?

Anybody who lives in the real world knows that the 0.5% and 0.3% figures you quote are absolute rubbish, there are a lot of people who are actively cheating the system by claiming disability benefits for phantom illness or claiming jobseekers allowance without seeking a job.

That’s not to say there are millions of well-paid fulfilling jobs waiting to be fulfilled by an individual who has not worked for two years, we know there isn’t.

We need better welfare for those who need it but the halfway house we have of handing out subsistence level payments to anybody with a limp does not help anybody. Lets stop closing down the arguments as right wing attacks or anti-disabled More carrot, more stick.

another BBC programme slamming people claiming benefits, while I’m sorry that some do cheat the system. The majority do not. Wish they’d all get over it now. Also @ 7… how do you know they are “phantom” illnesses. On the outside I look like a perfectly healthy person. In reality I get what is essentially poison pumped into my veins every 4 weeks so as to stay in moderate health. I get DLA, and that barely covers the expenses that having to take a trip to a regional specialist centre that often. Get off your high horse. Just because someone “looks” healthy doesn’t mean they are.

9. Ciaran Osborne

@7

How exacly do you ‘know’ that?

Is it because you also ‘know’ that disabled people are cheats and liars?

10. Man on Clapham Omnibus

For those that think the licence fee is set by the BBC please read the following extract from wikipedia:-

The licence fee is set annually by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by the use of Statutory Instruments.

The BBC is authorised by the Communications Act 2003 to collect the licence fees. The money received is first paid into the Government’s Consolidated Fund.

In the current setup its actually fixed until 2017 ,I think.

In my opinion all the news programming runs in close step with the Government simply because of the historic presuposition of the Tories that the BBC was left wing and the fact that the Government has already shown what it can do in the last round of cuts.
Its a bit of a coincidence that at at time the whole world is aflame with the occupy movement suddenly we see what the benifit cheats with there miniscule gains are up to. I could be wrong.Next week they may be doing something on Vodafone’s 6 Billion or maybe Goldmann Sach’s and the handshake .

11. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@7 Andy

I live in the real world too. I am intrigued as to how that qualifies us to have a knowledge of things without necessarily counting them.

Did you know for example that 80% of statistics are made up on the spot.

That surprised me when I heard it,because prior to that, I understood it was only 77%

“5 million sick and disabled people”

5 million sick and disabled? Christ, the population of Britain is only sixty million, so that would mean 8% or 1 in 12 of us is sick or disabled. How the hell does one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries with excellent medical research facilities and a free universal health service contrive to have 1 in 12 sick or disabled?

“so that would mean 8% or 1 in 12 of us is sick or disabled. How the hell does one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries with excellent medical research facilities and a free universal health service contrive to have 1 in 12 sick or disabled?”

Simple. Medical advances mean we are living longer and treatments for things that would have killled us a century ago no longer do so. However many of the treatments for these diseases simply turn death sentences into chronic conditions.

Frankly the 8% is a figure far lower than I’m used to seeing. This report here: http://cymru.gov.uk/topics/health/publications/health/reports/profilelongtermchronic;jsessionid=yDTyTy1bQQBpfVNwHy7wbGW6MqJRlg2t45mNSK1tL2yBCctfPvvc!-1883660344?lang=en gives the figure of 1 in 3 for Wales. Although demographic differences mean this will probably be higher than in the rest of the UK.

14. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Vegans do better.

1 in 3 – Jesus – if that’s going to be true of the working age population (which roughly speaking it should be – there will generally be a higher disability/sickness rate among the over 65s, but lower in the under 16s), then we have an enormous difficulty on our hands, as it’s enormously difficult to keep the economy going with 1/3 of the population out of action.

“), then we have an enormous difficulty on our hands, as it’s enormously difficult to keep the economy going with 1/3 of the population out of action.”

Well 1 in 3 have a chronic condition, but there is no reason why some chronic conditions shouldn’t prevent somebody from being in employment. The obvious example is wheelchair users, who clearly can’t be employed on building sites, but can easily do work behind a computer screen.

The challenge for us is creating the climate in which the labour market works properly in being able to allocate people to suitable vacancies, but also one in which employers can recognise their employees aren’t superhuman and may have difficulties some days. Currently most do not and a disability/chronic condition is seen as a cost burder employers would prefer to externalise.

This by the way is the economic case for tackling discrimination in the workplace, requiring employers to make reasonable adaptations to enable people to do there jobs, and adopting a positive attitude to disability that is sadly lacking amongst the right. I’d argue we also need to re-conceptualise what employment is (that’s a big piece on its own) and re-design the welfare system to support people to move slowly into work rather than the binary approach that is taken at the Because medical advances mean the number of people with chronic conditions will grow, and society will have to change or we’ll end up like greece.

17. Dick the Prick

Dear Sue

It’s not about benefits – it’s about fraud. The BBC should do programmes about all fraud at whatever level. Whatever happened to the ‘Money Programme’ and ‘Rough Justice’ but….bring on fucking Dancing with Cheese or that bloody imitation It’s a Knockout with that little runt off Top Gear in Argentina? Argenfuckingtina? What on earth is wrong with Skegness? Unbelievable. But fraud is fraud and working tax credits and even kiddie tax credits are quite open to fraud so people should be informed to know how it’s gonna get sorted, I guess.

Now if you’re saying the BBC are shite, i’m with you all the way. I don’t really think the BBC are bias. I’m a Tory who listens to the Today programme everyday and it kinda seems like they don’t utilise their staff anymore and that opinion and glitz has overtaken facts and honesty. I tend to find the BBC banal more often these days and that’s pretty upsetting.

All the best

DtP

Both government and license payers pay for the BBC. In 2009-2010, the BBC received £293 million from government grants. Plus they have several other revenue streams… In 2010 in total, the revenue from licenses was £3,446.8 million, and revenue from all other sources combined was £1,343.6 million.

http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/annualreport/pdf/bbc_ar_online_2009_10.pdf

Apart from the obvious irritation of having to pay for the overpaid, bloated, lazy and self important organisation I am largely indifferent to what they broadcast.
The news programmes are utterly worthless, juvenile and puerile, presented by Muppets.
‘Journalism’ has been replaced by press releases and propaganda and any attempt to complain is met with arrogance and contempt.
Aunty is always right.
They exist solely to promote Top Gear – ignore them in their entirety.

Cieran – fair enough, I don’t “know” but I can be pretty sure based on the twenty or so individuals claiming benefits that I meet regularly, the 0.3% – 0.5% seems very low. Of course I am not a doctor and the mountaineer may indeed have mobility issues. I suspect that it is easier for this individual to supplement their job seeking allowance by claiming disability benefits than to find a job that won’t pay much if any more.

Yes I know that disability benefits are not means tested and most people using these benefits in fact are employed and in genuine need – I am just questioning the figures.

I never called anybody a cheat or a liar although to believe that they don’t exist is frankly naive.

There needs to be more well paid jobs with better where experience, education, gender, disability, race, social background are not barriers to employment.

Hopefully programs like this will stop and a lot of very tall horses can be un-mounted on both sides of the political spectrum.

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 Andy

Twenty people simply isn’t a big enough sample size to get an accurate estimate of the real figures. Especially as (I assume) the benefit claimants you know personally aren’t a randomly selected group – I’m guessing many of them live in the same town, or went to the same school, or are part of some group or another.

You could know twenty claimants, and 20/20 could be cheats or 20/20 could be deserving – either way, it doesn’t tell you much about the bigger picture.

22. Peter Lockhart

Andy will be pleased to know that because of his and people like hims suspicions, based on nothing more that supposition and anecdotal evidence DLA is to be abolished. DLA is a benefit which is very difficult to get. I get it but I had to fill in a huge from go thought two medicals from the DWP and have supporting medical evidence for my GP and hospital consultants. But hey ho, Andy and his like think there is massive amounts of fraud to to appease the Andys of the world the government has decided just to abolish the benefit. Of course it will leave people like myself unable to pay for care cost and transport meaning many of us will be either housebound or in many cases need to go into care homes which I should add will end up costing hard working taxpayers like Andy far far more in the long term. Oh, and it will also mean many working disabled people will lose their jobs.

Never mind Andy, at least you won’t have to worry about al lthose people you know who are defrauding the system.

23. Rob the crip

12 million people are disabled/sick, 8 million are on working age.
A child is born in the UK every 25 minutes with a life changing sickness or disability.

The biggest benefit fraud is the same it has been since the welfare state started housing benefits.

The biggest group to cause fraud are organised crime gangs who use dead children’s names to claim benefits, the biggest criminal at this time are organised criminal from the EU, who claim benefits in more then one country.

Disability has the lowest number of frauds for the simple reason it’s not your GP who gives you benefits but a private firm ATOS.

Heil Hitler….Or is that heil Miliband and Cameron.

The constant drip drip of fraudulent disability claim stories can be directly related to the rise in disabled hate crime. The media has created a climate where all disabled people are seen as a burden,and possible benefit cheats.

No surprise here. The BBC long ago gave up any sense of impartiality as it stacked its programmes with tory arsewipes. Robinson and Neil doing their political coverage. Their motoring show given over to a bunch of tory voting scum who use the show to push a tory agenda.

And then there is Newsnight. Dear old news night reduced to giving wall to wall air time to right wing neo con fruit cases. The BBC was told to get in line by the global elites, or they would be destroyed. So they have turned themselves into a tory propaganda channel.

@Test

I am not sure what you think the alternative to having sick and disabled people in an advanced country is. Is it too early to Goodwin?

@20

You know what they say, the plural of anecdotes is not data.

Come back when you have something more substantial than your own prejudice to base your claims on.

As no one here has actually seen the programme yet (& the OP says on her own blog she won’t be watching) it might be a good idea to wait an hour or so before commenting?

@ 6

We rarely watch the BBC, is there a way of getting out of paying the licience fee?

Yes, it’s easy. You don’t watch any television programs (on any format) as they’re being shown on television. You can even listen to BBC radio and access BBC websites without it.

What a bargain, eh?

I can’t think of any other kind of tax you can get out of simply because you don’t use the services. I don’t even get to borrow a tank at the weekend.

30. Black Guardian

Andy – these twenty or so people you are sure are cheating on benefits: I assume you’ve reported them for fraud?

Max – yes, judgement would normally best be reserved till after broadcast, but it isn’t that simple. I read above that they’ve been trailing it elsewhere using misleading and distorted figures (http://fullfact.org/blog/benefit_fraud_error_Mirror_Panorama_welfare-3092). There are those who will not watch Panorama but will walk away with the impression that there is titanic benefit fraud in this country. The same could also be said for the written trails in the programme description on the BBC website, not to mention the ludicrous title ‘Britain on the Fiddle’.

I’m afraid we are in an age where a headline will make a greater impression than serious content.

31. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@9

How exacly do you ‘know’ that?

libcon 101 – if you invoke the ‘real world’ or pretend to be working class, everything you say is automatically true.

32. Paul Newman

29 – Are you sure that the State’s role in providing defence and celebrity dancing competitions are on a par?

I must say this 0.3% figure sounds implausible to me

@30

‘I’m afraid we are in an age where a headline will make a greater impression than serious content.’

Indeed we are – however it’s not all one way. The OP has some form in this.

To be clear – I have great sympathy for the OP and some of her issues, however I don’t believe she does her cause any good by (e.g.) writing up case studies which are not factually correct and criticising programmes she hasn’t seen.

Do all these statistics show why HMRC spend several hundred times more per benefit fraudster who may have trousered a couple of thousand freebies than it spends on company Tax evading/avoiding schemes which benefit the Directors with massive pay packetsand bonuses worth millions and defraud the whole tax-paying public?

Whoa! Don’t blame the BBC. It is NOT the job of the BBC to set the agenda of what people are talking about. It is the BBC’s job to make programmes regarding the issues of the day. Whether we like it or not these orchestrated on benefit claimant are setting the agenda. Whose fault is that? The BBC’s? Why would that be, exactly?

I have lost count of the number of Tory people, all of whom nice, beautiful people, with no axe to grind, nor agenda to pursue being allowed to scream abuse at the disabled without anyone from the Left making any attempt to question those beliefs/assertions/lies. I have seen people demanding that Downs Syndrome suffers should be excluded from basic human Rights legislation and those views have gone unchallenged. I have heard disabled people on Radio 5 described as ‘parasites’ and disabled children ‘drains on society’ and the best reply was along the lines of ‘Oh, that’s not fair’.

This, er ‘Social Democratic’ agenda has been allowed to grow completely unchallenged for the last five to ten years simply because we have been posted missing at the debating table, more interested in debating the finer points of Goodwin’s Law, than challenging the assertion that people with Multiple Sclerosis could work if they put their mind to it, or that people with mental health issues require ‘tough love’.

So don’t blame BBC because the Left are more interested in the latest opinion polls that ‘prove’ Labour chose the wrong Milliband, than defending those who have no voice.

As for the BBC’s impartiality? Well whose fault was that? Whenever the Tories squealed like pigs about a report telling us about the truth regarding a policy showing them to be wrong as evidence of ‘bias’, where were the Left? Did we use that opportunity to expose them as whingers? Did we challenge them to explain the bias? Did we defend the BBC’s impartiality? Or did we join in and use Top Gear as proof that the BBC was actually Right Wing? Did we join in the BBC bashing, instead of the Tory bashing such an opportunity would give us? So thirty years of drip, drip, drip has finally paid off and the BBC are unable to provide unbiased programmes that will actually educate people, rather than simply re-enforce prejudices?

Yeah, where we we when the vermin we going on and on about ‘bias’? Fucking smiling at the end of the panel, hopping to get a point across regarding the latest latest Blair/Brown spat, that’s where.

36. Leon Wolfson

@29 – The government want to change that, of course.

@35 – Because the government direct them to do so. It’s not HMRC’s fault per-se, although the toothless wonders need to start hiring people from America’s IRS and the Government needs to boost their powers considerably.

@ 29

The principle is basically the same. Why should pacifists be expected to pay for a state service they don’t support? The question of whether things like celebrity dancing shows are a valid thing for the BBC to pursue in the ‘public interest’ is a different issue and a complex one. I’m minded to agree with your implication that it isn’t a good use of BBC resources. But neither do I want to go back to the days of Lord Reith where the great and good decide what the rest of us need to civilise ourselves.

None of that detracts from my main point that having live television is not in any way something that people absolutely need to have. With the rise of the Internet (especially YouTube), it’s not even as if there isn’t a viable alternative if people want it.

If it’s legitimate for people to complain about not being able to access ITV etc. without a license, why shouldn’t I also get provided with comics and computer games without paying for them? They’re both leisure activities.

Jim,

it is no surprise that the those “nice, no agenda tories” are behaving like brownshirts. They have been drilled to hate by their corporate masters. They are fed a died of hate in their newspapers. Both here and in the US the brownshirts are an ugly mob of losers with a hatred of anyone who does not look, behave or think like they do.

When you look at the average tory voter you can see how easily it is for fascism to triumph.

I’ve made a transcript of The Future Of The Welfare State With John Humphrys in preparation of a line-by-line rebuttal demonstrating absolutely no effort at all was made for accuracy and rigour in fact-checking and properly informing the audience. This will take some time but the BBC should either put up the massive amount of hidden evidence Humphrys had access to that proves the premise of his programme or retracts practically the entire thing.

A public sector broadcaster should be expected to bring something new to a national debate, inform the audience or challenge them. It has done none.

Sue, you forgot to ask. Why they are focusing on benefit cheats when tax avoidance costs the exchequer 15 times more than benefit fraud?

http://citywire.co.uk/new-model-adviser/tax-evasion-costs-treasury-15-times-more-than-benefit-fraud/a378274

Is the BBC becoming the propaganda arm of the government? I think so. The BBC is a pathetic shadow of what it was say 20 years ago. Then they weren’t afraid to be critical of power and upset the government of the day. Today they are utterly spineless and sycophantic to whoever’s in power!

Oh alright then it seems obvious that the BBC is hopelessly biassed against left wing causes. You have convinced me and , reluctantly , I will have to agree that we ought to shrink to the size of a small heritage news and children’s telly adjunct the main private sector media providers .
Then fund it out of income tax

42. theophrastus

@ 40. Tax avoidance is legal; benefit fraud is not.

Where, btw, do these 0.3% and 0.5% figures for sickness and disability benefit fraud come from?

And fraud is only part of the abuse. Welfare dependency is deeply corrosive. There are many people who systematically abuse the welfare system to avoid working. I work in social housing and I see it every working day.

43. Leon Wolfson

@42 – Tax evasion, also a large multiple of benefit fraud, is not.

And tax evasion is also deeply corrosive.

And gee, when you have a situation where people forced into a minimum wage job will usually be WORSE off than staying on benefits thanks to the situation the government has only made worse with things like slashing childcare…

12. Test You said ““5 million sick and disabled people”

5 million sick and disabled? Christ, the population of Britain is only sixty million, so that would mean 8% or 1 in 12 of us is sick or disabled. How the hell does one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries with excellent medical research facilities and a free universal health service contrive to have 1 in 12 sick or disabled?”

It made me laugh a lot.

Every time I write one of these articles and use that figure (that is only the number claiming some kind of benefits – in or out of work ones – there are actually 10 million in total 🙂 Someone writes exactly that.

5 million is a figure totally in line with other developed nations, bit higher than some, bit lower than others.

You made me laugh because it always proves to me right there that the person commenting knows few disabled people, little about illness or disability, is probably pretty hale and hearty and can’t imagine being ill or the myriad ways in which other people might be. Yet they comment on an article about illness and disability.

Go figure.

Did anyone watch this?

Sue seems to be aligning herself with the well heeled cheats who have been working the system. Perhaps she should consider that it is because of these people that she has to undertake her ATOS interview- and given the examples of people fraudulently claiming DLA in this programme, they are not doing a great job at weeding them out.

But the problem is not really the cheats, but the benefits system itself. What was most dispiriting was to see the huge resources inefficiently and intrusively trying to police a system that was fatally flawed by its over complexity.

We need to move to a simple flat rate Citizens Basic Income type system with an enhanced tier for those who can prove they are genuinely disabled.

Re the fraud figures.

The figures have remained broadly the same for donkeys years. Despite tougher and tougher sanctions, longer forms, tougher tests and work programmes, no government has ever found this elusive hoard of secret scroungers we all seem to “know” exist.

They’ve been trying really hard for 20 years.

Now, they’ve given up and simply changed the goalposts. Now, illnesses and disabilities that were previously considered incapacitating are not.

That is not the fault of the claimant, but for te policy to be successful it depends upon everyone believing that lots of people were really well enough to work all along.

Clever eh?

Cheating is a way of life for so many in this country, tax avoidance may be legal but morally its wrong and many enter into tax evasion. The rich and powerful can afford clever and devious accountants whilst millions of PAYE employees have to put up with paying a harsher level of tax all their working lives.

The BBC is Camerons poodle because its scared of the Tory (Daily Mail et al) bullying tactics and threats to its funding.

ITV is now a far better News channel and is openly critical when it needs to be.

Channel Four also gives a more impartial view than the BBC State TV angle.

Chaise #21, yeah I absolutely agree, just based on my experience I am questioning the 0.3% / 0.5% figure. I could be wrong, but I think I am right.

Peter #22 – come on, you just built up an argument based on your circumstances, the same thing Chaise #21 is complaining at me for doing. You went through some medicals and filled out a form – I don’t claim to be any authority on the subject apart from having an opinion but I think that’s fair enough if you need a benefit payment based on medical grounds that you should be medically assessed, I don’t think for a moment ATOS is the right way to do it but in principle I believe its sound. Apart from a medical examination how else would you stop fraudulent claims for medially based benefits?

Black Guardian #30 – I never said I know 20 people committing benefit fraud.

Disgusted #31 – That was easy, well done. If you want to know, and I suspect you don’t, the context I was quoting real world is based on what I have seen and experienced. But please don’t let that spoil your fun.

49. Arthur Seaton

Cheers for this article Sue, and cheers for the address. Will be asking Panorama when they fancy doing a piece on the corruption of Dave Hartnett of Hm Revenue and Customs, and how he has colluded in tax evasion which has cost this country several times as much money as the scroungers at the other end of the social scale. Don’t expect a swift reply.

pagar: “Perhaps she should consider that it is because of these people that she has to undertake her ATOS interview”

That really takes some chutzpah, that does.

The ATOS interview was not instituted to reduce fraud, or because of fraud. It was instituted to reduce the spending on claims, by any means possible, with the bonus of creating a new profit centre for the outsourcing industry. Everyone knows the ATOS interview is vastly unfair and excludes whole swathes of disabling conditions while failing to catch much fraud – you admit as much in your post. I simply do not believe that a better system could not have been devised; this is simply a matter of reducing the bill by the route of least resistance.

The idea that the system is crammed with cackling fraudsters was invented by pro-government newspapers and think-tanks in order to justify their new policy. You and Andy appear to have been entirely taken in by the standard issue tabloid tactic of seeking out a “horrifying” case every week or so to paint a misleading of endemic fraud (easy, considering the size of the system – you could wage an equally convincing campaign to suggest basically all policemen were fraudsters by putting a bit of effort into finding one corrupt officer per edition for a while).

51. Leon Wolfson

@48 – Anecdotal evidence isn’t proof of statistics. It can prove other things like abuse of claimants, but…

The biggest group to cause fraud are organised crime gangs who use dead children’s names to claim benefits,

When I worked at the DWP I managed to have a chat with one of the very busy fraud team, and this is pretty much what they told me. Dead children’s names and their NI numbers, number one cause of fraud.

Jungle #50 – I have not been taken in by anybody, I am only saying that I believe, based on my experience, that the fraud rate is more significant than 0.3%-0.5% but if its easier for you to dismiss me as a typical Daily Mail / tabloid reader then dont let me p*ss on your chips.

54. Flowerpower

The OP is absurd.

An investigative documentary strand like Panorama does not go about making films about well-behaved people.

No doubt the majority of builders are good at their job and don’t cheat their customers. But it would be absurd if Panorama were to have to make more films about “good, honest builders” to justify one about “cowboy builders”.

Should Panorama also make films about honest football executives, to justify its exposure of corrupt ones?

Or broadcast hours of tabloid hacks NOT hacking phones so it can finally do one that exposes illegality?

The BBC is no more picking on benefits claimants than it is “picking” on football, newspapers or the building trade.

@ Andy

yeah I absolutely agree, just based on my experience I am questioning the 0.3% / 0.5% figure. I could be wrong, but I think I am right.

But as people keep trying to explain to you, there is no way your personal experience is going to give you a large enough sample group to make a statistical claim. And you did, pretty starkly:

Anybody who lives in the real world knows that the 0.5% and 0.3% figures you quote are absolute rubbish, there are a lot of people who are actively cheating the system by claiming disability benefits for phantom illness or claiming jobseekers allowance without seeking a job.

You categorically stated that there were definitely a lot of people actively cheating the system, that the cited statistics was talking “absolute rubbish” and that anybody who didn’t agree with you didn’t live in the real world.

And, yet, you appear to be drawing these conclusions entirely on your own personal experience. Which is about as useful as me making statistics up off the top of my head. And you’ll find that 78% of certified geniuses agree with me. Based on my experience.

So while you not be a Daily Mail reader, you are someone who makes firm claims he’s unable to back up, uses the “appeal to common sense” fallacy to try and obfuscate the fact he has no data and then whines when people call you on it. I’m not convinced being a Daily Mail reader would actually be worse.

@Andy It’s pretty ridiculous for you to try to call out someone’s statistics based on your ‘experience’. Your experience as what? A government statistician? Or is it just a hunch? Exactly what constitutes this ‘real world’ in which you live?

Governments compile statistics so that politicians and civil servants can make informed policy, and these statistics are published in the interests of transparency. Of course there are ways of presenting and massaging statistics (such as recording unemployed people on worthless schemes as ‘in training) but basically in a free, reputable democracy like ours, statistics are to be believed. If you want to take issues with someone’s statistics, you have to do some research first, and not just assume that your hunch is correct. Its a foundational principle of empirical logic, and when people ignore it (as you have here), then people can simply let their prejudices run wild.

57. So Much For Subtlety

55. Waterloo Sunset

So while you not be a Daily Mail reader, you are someone who makes firm claims he’s unable to back up, uses the “appeal to common sense” fallacy to try and obfuscate the fact he has no data and then whines when people call you on it. I’m not convinced being a Daily Mail reader would actually be worse.

The common sense argument is stronger than you think. But the reality is that ATOS is doing checks on people claiming various forms of Disability. They are finding fraud at levels way above 0.5%. In fact they seem to be showing the out right majority of people claiming are doing so fraudulently.

And Sue Marsh knows this as we have been over it before.

56. Monkihunta

Governments compile statistics so that politicians and civil servants can make informed policy, and these statistics are published in the interests of transparency.

Sorry but that is rubbish. Perhaps ideally. Perhaps it used to be that way. But it has not been for a long time. Governments compile statistics for the purposes of political spin and no other.

The idea that the Social investigating itself can produce valid statistics is absurd.

The fact is there has been over-diagnosis, there has been an expansion of terms like “disabled” and there has been massive fraud in claimants. As everyone knows. No matter how much interested parties may want to claim otherwise.

@54 I see your point but if Panorama was also quoting figures at odds with existing ones that affected the reputation of anyone else, there would be questions. Benefit claimants it seems are fair game two weeks in a row whilst the Welfare Reform bill is in committee stage.

The timing of the programmes as the Welfare Reform bill nears it’s conclusion in Parliament is suspicious. There is only one previous occasion on which Panorama has appeared to cynically time an episode to coincide with a related significant event and that I believe was when England was bidding to host the World Cup and it was an episode on corruption in football. There was a storm over that, a mere sport. When it comes to people’s lives and well-fare, that doesn’t seem to be worth a mention.

The BBC, does pick on people. But let’s play by the rules of the gutter and define them as deserving and undeserving. They pick on fraudsters, who are deserving of such treatment. But through their callousness and lack of care for accuracy they include rightful claimants who few would argue should be able to claim without unjustified accosting every day of their lives. They pick on cowboy tradesmen and football executives, but have they ever been so careless with broader representations of them that is has tarnished others? No, they only ostracise clear and direct targets when it is anyone else but benefit claimants.

Sometimes they pick with a scalpel. This time they picked with a snow shovel.

Oh and SMFS knows the WCA can not detect fraud, it is not designed to, the government does not claim that this is what it is for and no newspaper who first idiotically brandished such claims have repeated it in their News pages since being caught out.

SMFS has failed to actually defend the test itself and instead relies on pre-supposing the test is fine and therefore he can draw radical conclusions from pretty junk numbers. Half of all ESA claimants remain in the Assessment Phase and the system is a shambles.

@ 57

The common sense argument is stronger than you think.

It really isn’t. In the best case scenario it’s an appeal to popularity. And we’re very rarely talking about a best case scenario.

True story. I know someone (years ago now) who actually had their arm broken by a doctor working for the DWP who didn’t believe that they were disabled. Are you even prepared to take that solely on my word, let alone allow me to use it to draw a general conclusion on the national situation?

But the reality is that ATOS is doing checks on people claiming various forms of Disability. They are finding fraud at levels way above 0.5%. In fact they seem to be showing the out right majority of people claiming are doing so fraudulently.

Have you got a link to any of the data you’re basing that on? That strikes me as a far more productive way of moving the debate forward then us trying to base it on Andy’s psychic hunches.

Sorry but that is rubbish. Perhaps ideally. Perhaps it used to be that way. But it has not been for a long time. Governments compile statistics for the purposes of political spin and no other.

I’d say that’s overstating it (not all the census collection is for reasons of spin, say), but I certainly think you’ve got a strong point. Where possible, I’d prefer to use academic data, but we obviously don’t always have that available. A decent critique of the methodology used is productive and entirely valid.

61. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@48

That was easy, well done. If you want to know, and I suspect you don’t, the context I was quoting real world is based on what I have seen and experienced. But please don’t let that spoil your fun.

I already know, because I’ve taken to the time to look it up rather than base an entire weltanschauung on a half formed lattice of conjecture and anecdote.

Out of interest, external to the much vaunted ‘real world’ – how many worlds are there, based on what you’ve seen and experienced? Is there one made out of sausage rolls and discarded copies of ‘big trouble in little China’ on laserdisc?

62. Leon Wolfson

@57 – No, they have a mandate to reduce it by a certain percentage. Regardless of the merits of the claims. So they are. They lose 40% of their appeals, which is a catastrophic percentage. Anything over 5% would indicate an major issue!

Any medical professionals associated with ATOS, given the 40% rate, should be looking at a jail sentence.

“As everyone knows.”

As your far right conspiracy theories know, rather.

63. Dear Old Ted

Shame on ’em indeed!

First to bring up the Daily Mail should be banned, i think that’s an argument by association???? And irrelevant.

I think I get it now, Either i just live in an area with a statistically high number of people cheating the system and this does not happen elsewhere in the UK hence the 0.3 /0.5% figure.

Or as I am not a doctor or career advisor I am not qualified to comment which I do accept to an extent. Really it’s not my business.

Excuse me if I am not 100% convinced.

I’m sure that parking in disabled bays fraudulently is statistically unlikely too but it happens and should be tackled. It’s not fair.

Benefits are easy to claim?
What a loads of codswallop. Some posters here clearly glean the majority of their information about the wider world from the Daily Mail.
The amount of hoops one has to jump through to claim the help (that one is entitled to due to paying into the system for years in the first place) is absolutely ludicrous, as anyone who has FIRST-HAND experience of this will know.
I understand that there WILL be some individuals who try to abuse the system, but this is true of ANY system; let’s not tar the majority with the same brush as these people.
Let’s direct our attention to the £97 BILLION that is lost from our economy every year due to corporate tax evasion rather than criminalise a minority.

“Perhaps she should consider that it is because of these people that she has to undertake her ATOS interview”

Since when have you been in favour of forcing innocent people to have to prove their innocence as a way of curbing a small minority of criminals?

Try this:

“perhaps the young muslim tortured in Guantanamo bay should consider it is because of terrorists that he has to be held indefinitely and tortured?”

67. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@61 Tunbridge Wells

There are actually a number of real worlds. Sadly the notion of ‘common sense’ is one that is being used constantly by the Tories. The common sense notion, for example, that the management of national budgets equates with the management of household budgets;That if something isnt privatised then it is better to be privatised and if it is privatised , it is better to privatise it more. I saw last month on the TV the leader for Richmond (I think) justifying weekly bin collection because of a rat problem for which he could provide no evidence. Unfortunately the parochial is often what defines our thinking. More science teaching is what is required in my view.

By the way,

‘a weltanschauung on a half formed lattice of conjecture and anecdote’

sounds delicious . Might this be served on a bed of mixed metaphor perhaps with a coulis of reduced verbosity?

@ Planeshift

Since when have you been in favour of forcing innocent people to have to prove their innocence as a way of curbing a small minority of criminals?

I’m not.

But we are not talking about proving innocence but about claiming a right, granted by the state to being allocated someone else’s money.

My point was that we have to put up with a lot of Sue’s diatribes attacking the state and it’s methods of determining she is not a cheat and yet she does not seem to make the connection that there would be no need for this if the system were not being systematically defrauded, The 0.5% figure is what the benefit authorities manage to stumble across and record and bears no relationship to the real levels of fraud which, by the very fact that they are undiscovered, are entirely unquantifiable.

The Panorama programme, which Sue attacked before viewing, exposed a Met policeman and a Bentley driving pub owner for claiming social housing then illegally letting it out, a man doing the same who had a house in France and two yachts, and a couple of illegal immigrants claiming all sorts of benefits on completely falsified documents. Most people appearing on the programme were claiming DLA for themselves or Care Allowance for others that didn’t exist.

It is because people do such things that the authorities are not prepared to accept Sue’s word that she is unable to work because of her condition and ask for a medical report. Therefore she should not, rationally, be defending benefit cheats or attacking those who set out to expose them.

Having said all that, I have to say that this programme did represent the lowest type of gutter journalism (worse even than the super smug Rogue traders) and the sight of highly paid BBC journalists and Council “police” attempting to moralise to penniless immigrants about their “crimes” was pretty stomach churning.

Because, in my view, no moral blame attaches to benefit cheats- human beings are programmed to do what is in their own economic interest and, if you are desperate for money or believe there is little prospect of being caught, cheating the benefits system is a rational decision.

As I said above, it is the corrupt system itself that is the problem and, in some respects, it gets what it deserves.

So, the BBC will air programs investigating benefit fraud but where are the BBC programs investigating the fraud at the heart of the financial sector?

The BBC is a waste of space!

“It is because people do such things that the authorities are not prepared to accept Sue’s word that she is unable to work because of her condition”

The authorities would be pushing their reforms with or without fraud because it is a cost cutting measure to shift disabled people onto the lower amount that JSA is because successive governments have been picking on easy targets.

“but about claiming a right, granted by the state to being allocated someone else’s money.”

At some point Sue, and the vast majority of disabled people – was a net contributor to the tax system. Part of the contract is the right – yes a right – that you will be supported if you need to. So its her fucking money as well. Tell me, do you think OAPs are getting other people’s money or merely getting what they are entitled to after decades of paying in?

But if we are going down this line bear in mind it becomes very easy to justfy the most appalling discriminatory practices. People with severe disabilities are unlikely to ever be able to contribute to the tax system, so presumably in libertarian land we should just let them starve or abort them – because all that matters are the rights of taxpayers after all…..

the one quoting the £22.5 bn in fraud which has ” suddenly ” jumped up from about £4.5 bn , which in any case ; only a quarter to a third is actual wilful fraud – the rest is down to error .

Chicken Feed compared to Tax Evasion and the amount of public money ” laundered ” through the Private Sector to seriously wealthy individuals and also to fat cat directors . http://www.cipfa.org.uk/regions/se/news_detailed.cfm?news_id=20740

They are on very lucrative public sector contracts – it’s the oldest Managerial trick in the book , create problems and come up with ” solutions ” . They parrot out what the Government wants to hear …simple as . ” We work with governments and donors , which begs the question as to exactly who the donors are .

Ok. As a benefits caseworker for a charity, and previous DWP employee, I’ve dealt with thousands of benefit claimants, personally. I’ve helped people claim benefits, I’ve fought their case to get the right benefits when errors have been made, dealt with hundreds of appeals, and even taken cases of those who have been accused of fraud (often wrongly).

In my experience the rate of fraud is quite low. When people are commiting fraud, for most it is not in order to make bags of cash, but is due to other factors such as, the level of benefits they are on being so low that they have difficulties making ends meet, or mental health problems, or misunderstanding the benefit rules. All of these people would be included in fraud figures. Very few are the deliberate, organised, 2 or 3 houses, bently driving type, or marathon running DLA claiming type – though I have come across a couple over the years.

The problem with these types of programmes is that they make it seem firstly as if all fraud is the same as the extreme examples given – which it isn’t. And secondly that all benefit claimants are fraudsters.

And onto the ATOS issue which still people don’t seem to understand.

I’ve represented a couple of hundred people appealing their ESA, ATOS decisions, with a very high success rate – much higher than the general success rate.

Firstly these ATOS assessments have very little to do with how sick someone is, they are a question and answer session about ability to do certain tasks. The assessor will then attempt to limit the answers to yes or no or shortest answer possible, and will make assumptions about the answers given. For instance, answering that you have a dog will lead to the assumption that you feed, walk and take care of the dog, even if someone else does this – they generally don’t bother with the follow up question. Answering yes to ‘do you do your own shopping’ leads to the assumption that you walk around the supermarket, carry bags etc – even if you order your groceries online and the driver brings the bags into your kitchen.

I could give many more examples, but the fact is that it is those assuming it is a fair ‘medical’ that fall foul of these tactics – they don’t understand that yes/no answers are not sufficient – they don’t know they need to fight to get across how their illness or disability affects them, and many, particularly those with mental health problems aren’t capable of fighting their corner. Genuine people trust that the system will be fair – and its not.

And I haven’t even gone into some of the outright lies I’ve seen on the ATOS medical forms.

And just to put to rest another common confusion, the work related activity group for ESA does not mean fit for work – it doesn’t even mean ready for work soon. The best description would be not severe enough to be in the support group, but not fit for work. Most people placed in the support group are severely sick or disabled, requiring help from others on a regular basis, or barely functional in daily life or nearly at deaths door. And even then, if you answer the questions wrong, you can be at death’s door and still fail the assessment.

I doubt anything I say will affect those who enjoy their confirmation bias (daily fail readers, for example), but I just wanted to put my experienced view point across.

73. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@67

sounds delicious . Might this be served on a bed of mixed metaphor perhaps with a coulis of reduced verbosity?

If you like, perhaps with a glass of elderflower cordia….. Ah bastard, there goes my ‘real world’ credentials.

Flowerpower @ 54

Nonsense. Sheer nonsense. Investigative journalism is about investigating people who would otherwise escape justice. Dodgy builders for example are investigated because people have difficulty in holding them to account. Trading standards are toothless against these people unless they can find firm evidence. Sting operations with bogus homeowners and secret filming to expose these people and the practices they employ are all legitimate because there is no other alternative. Perhaps there should be an alternative, but there isn’t.

No matter how you look at it, this IS not ‘investigative’ journalism, because the BBC are not investigating anything; they merely shadow the real investigators.

Benefit fraud on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish. There IS a department with extraordinary powers whose specific role is to investigate benefit fraud. These people are regularly caught and convicted. The BBC has no remit to tackle benefit fraudsters any more than it is the BBC’s job to tackle shop lifting. I mean, the BBC does not set up secret cameras inside Tesco to film shoplifters or in pubs to film underage drinkers, do they? Nor do they plank TVs on motorways to catch speeding motorists, then shop them.

I can see what is happening here. The BBC is showing propaganda for the Government of the day (in this case a Tory one, but it could have been New Labour), to achieve either or both of these objectives:

1) Appease their core support that ‘something’ is being done on a subject (in this case benefit fraud) close to its heart.
2) Further stigmatise innocent people by association.

Okay, this programme was aimed at the Right’s clitoris and no doubt every tinpot bigot was brung to orgasm at the sight of a ‘scrounger getting caught with his hands in the till. But let us not use the term ‘investigation’ to describe this programme.

Pagar @ 68

The 0.5% figure is what the benefit authorities manage to stumble across and record and bears no relationship to the real levels of fraud which, by the very fact that they are undiscovered, are entirely unquantifiable.

But that is not the problem of the BBC. This programme highlighted people who were caught, tried and convicted of a criminal offence. So where is the ‘investigative journalism’ here? What there to investigate? These guys are being track by people who are paid to investigate benefit fraud and will do so, irrespective of whether or not the BBC tag along.

The BBC were tagging along to appease the Government of the day, not to ‘investigate’anything. This is about creating a witchunt environment that allows this:

It is because people do such things that the authorities are not prepared to accept Sue’s word that she is unable to work because of her condition and ask for a medical report. Therefore she should not, rationally, be defending benefit cheats or attacking those who set out to expose them.

That is a complete misrepresentation of the facts and a deliberate conflation of fraud and the ESA. Fraud is about finding people cheating to make false claims. The ESA and ATOS are about simply defining people once deemed ‘incapacitated’ as ‘fit for work’ based on completely idiotic criteria.

In regards to fraud prevalence (0.5% for disability benefits) and incidence (the actual but unknown level of fraud), if people doubt the prevalence figure is accurate then there is an onus on them to suggest an alternative means of measure. Now that the Panorama programme has made these claims and they apparently can be sourced to named organisations, they can be investigated but only as far as these organisations are transparent with their methods. They might decide to hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ in which case their claims are almost worthless.

The Labour government increased the number of benefit fraud investigators. I’m going to see if I can find out exactly when this was and what difference it made to the benefit fraud prevalence because if, as is rumoured, the number of investigators doubled but the prevalence rate stayed the same, then either the prevalence didn’t rise because it couldn’t rise as it is already pressed firmly against the incidence ceiling. Otherwise, the extra investigators were not arranged to increase total caseload but to reduce individual caseload on existing investigators.

77. Chaise Guevara

@ 74 Jim

“I can see what is happening here. The BBC is showing propaganda for the Government of the day (in this case a Tory one, but it could have been New Labour), to achieve either or both of these objectives:

1) Appease their core support that ‘something’ is being done on a subject (in this case benefit fraud) close to its heart.
2) Further stigmatise innocent people by association”

I’m not convinced – yet – that this is a case of the BBC showing propaganda for the government’s benefit. Yes, the documentary was one-sided and played into the Coalition’s hands, but in my experience Panorama has an irritating record of covering complex issues by almost arbitrarily deciding to cheer for one side and pretty much ignore the other. TBH, my impression so far is that they go with whatever they think will get the most viewers.

To convince me that this is a government/BBC stitch-up (or, at least, that the BBC was using its initiative to suck up to the people holding the purse strings), you’d have to show that there was a strong ongoing trend. One example isn’t enough, however irritating.

Jim – They weren’t even charged I believe

Chaise @ 77

The BBC is under intense pressure and are on their last legs. The Tories pulled of a masterstroke when the bolted the ‘World Service’ onto the BBC. That is the albatross that will sink the licence fee and therefore BBC and with it the last vestiges of an impartial media.

The BBC have not lurched to the Right, they still believe honest journalism, but unfortunately, any attempt at objective reporting is met by BBC bashing from the Tories and copycat attacks from the left.

80. Chaise Guevara

@ 79

Problem on both sides, that – everyone’s desperate to show that the Beeb’s biased against them.

The ATOS test has nothing to do with fraud detection and was never intended to.

82. So Much For Subtlety

81. Tom (iow)

The ATOS test has nothing to do with fraud detection and was never intended to.

Sure. And yet it is showing that massive numbers of people were claiming who should not have been. It has exposed, inadvertently, massive fraud.

And yet it is showing that massive numbers of people were claiming who should not have been. It has exposed, inadvertently, massive fraud.

You do realise that ATOS have changed the rules after people had claimed?
How can that be fraud? You claim on one set of rules and then the rules are changed retrospectiuvely and your orginal claim was fraud?

Fucking Typical Tory halfwit.

So if you apply for a bank loan and it is turned down, that is fraud?

SMFS now has a new trick; pretend people are being assessed under the same criteria and the problem with Incapacity Benefit was that it didn’t do this. Two things,

1. The WCA was brought in for ESA, not IB. ESA has entirely different criteria and this just doesn’t seem to sink in to some people. Even Lord Freud yesterday falsely stated several things from the IB era were a part of the ESA process. If someone is eligible and the goalposts move so they are no longer eligible, it’s not their fault.

2. Very few of the IB claimants being transferred to ESA have been assessed. Most of those assessed are first-time claimants. So how does SMFS justify saying ‘they were claiming and should not have been’ when in fact, no they were not claiming. Most of them are new claims and when the appeals are factored in, the process for assessing ESA claimants does not seem to be ‘tougher’ than the Personal Capability Assessment for IB was, just more inaccurate.

Exactly how much have you bothered trying to learn about it?

@82

Let me explain this so you understand.

Imagine the capacity to do some sort of work as being a high jump bar that you have to clear.

With Incapacity Benefit, the bar was at a certain height. With ESA this bar was lowered. That is if people are assessed correctly.

What ATOS do is an inferior, not fit for purpose test, that in most cases I’ve seen, does not properly assess whether a person can clear the bar or not – the person doing the assessment just makes the decision that the person can clear the bar, either without the evidence or despite the evidence.

The bar is set so low that legitimately failing the assessment, does not necessarily mean that the person does not have a long term health problem or disability.

For instance, I had a client who had a severe intestinal problem, pain, nausea and chronic diarrhea, every day, up to 15-20 times a day. She couldn’t work like that, no employer would hire her or keep her on with that problem – but there were no criteria within ESA to allow her to be found not fit for work and be awarded benefit. So is she a fraudster for claiming? According to your criteria, anyone who fails the ATOS assessment has committed fraud by claiming ESA. If you actually knew anything about ESA and the benefit system, you would know how wrong you are.

Many people are sick or disabled and legitmately fail the test, because they fall through gaps in the criteria – these people are not fraudulent.

Many, many others are failed in error by ATOS – these are also not fraudulent.

87. So Much For Subtlety

83. Jim

You do realise that ATOS have changed the rules after people had claimed?
How can that be fraud? You claim on one set of rules and then the rules are changed retrospectiuvely and your orginal claim was fraud?

Atos didn’t change any rules. Any rule changes are for the government to make. But I am enjoying the endless excuse-mongering that is going on here. By all means, quote the changes and then we can judge. You can’t can you?

Tom (iow)

So if you apply for a bank loan and it is turned down, that is fraud?

If you lie on your application stating an income or a purpose you don’t have, I tend to think it is.

Mason Dixon, Autistic

If someone is eligible and the goalposts move so they are no longer eligible, it’s not their fault.

I would agree. If that is what happened. On the other hand, if you got better and did not tell the Social, I think that is fraud. If you shopped around for a good doctor, I think that is fraud. If you know that you can work and you choose not to, that is fraud. The problem is we are never going to be able to decide who belongs in what category except for a few exceptional cases. I do love the man who is sailing around the world on Disability because he can’t work. What we can say is that since the 1980s we have seen an explosion in number claiming Disability of one form or another. And that since Atos was told to get tougher, we have seen a massive drop. The only possible conclusion is that there was massive fraud.

2. Very few of the IB claimants being transferred to ESA have been assessed. Most of those assessed are first-time claimants.

Evidence please. In those that we know used to claim, huge numbers have been kicked off.

jehane

What ATOS do is an inferior, not fit for purpose test, that in most cases I’ve seen, does not properly assess whether a person can clear the bar or not – the person doing the assessment just makes the decision that the person can clear the bar, either without the evidence or despite the evidence.

I see no evidence that Atos’ test is not fit for purpose. You just mean you don’t like it, right?

The bar is set so low that legitimately failing the assessment, does not necessarily mean that the person does not have a long term health problem or disability.

I am not sure that is the issue. The question is not if they have a disability but if they have such a disability they cannot work.

For instance, I had a client who had a severe intestinal problem, pain, nausea and chronic diarrhea, every day, up to 15-20 times a day. She couldn’t work like that, no employer would hire her or keep her on with that problem – but there were no criteria within ESA to allow her to be found not fit for work and be awarded benefit. So is she a fraudster for claiming? According to your criteria, anyone who fails the ATOS assessment has committed fraud by claiming ESA. If you actually knew anything about ESA and the benefit system, you would know how wrong you are.

Anecdote is not data.

@ SMFS

To make sure I’m not misrepresenting you, your position is that government statistics on this can’t be trusted at all as they are solely for the purposes of political spin. And that there is a deliberate downplaying of the figures, despite the fact the coalition overtly wishes to reduce the number of benefit payments.

But ATOS are an entirely neutral party on this issue, despite having a direct commercial interest in assessments.

Is that a fair summary?

SMFS, if you agree, then why have you been playing silly buggers for months? You were at this before the IB-ESA transition even began. You’re actually asking for evidence when ESA started in 2008 and the IB-ESA transition started in February this year. Have you bothered to even do five minutes research on ESA and WCA or did you just take the word of the trash tabloids on it?

In August the Employment Related Services Association made a FOI request to the DWP asking how many people had been assessed since the IB-ESA transition started. In September the DWP published this response: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-2310-2011.pdf

The actual figure for WCA assessments is protected from FOI because of commercial confidentiality but the DWP went out of their way to give the ERSA accurate figures because they represent the main Work Programme contractors. The contractors were concerned because they were not getting enough referrals and had been getting the blame for sub-contractors being squeezed because the Work Related Activity Group for ESA was not being filled fast enough. Without disabled people needing specialist support being put on the Work Programme, the contractors weren’t getting enough initial referral fees to cover their operating costs.

The figure the DWP gives totals 56,000, though they do not specify the time-frame they do imply with ‘since national rollout began’ that those are the figures for between February and August 2011 and this figure they say includes those who were not actually given a face-to-face assessment. It was estimated that when IB-ESA transitions were added to the caseload Atos would be assessing 11,000 claimants per week. It’s closer to 11,000 per month and this is a significant drop from their activity in 2009-2010 which was still low and they were still paid £100 million for.

Your understanding of ESA is sloppy, your understanding of the history of disability benefits is no better. Incapacity Benefit barely rose at all since it replaced Invalidity Benefit and it peaked in 2005. Disability Living Allowance has been inflated by artificial positive forcing because it siphoned off future Attendance Allowance claimants.

Atos are not ‘tough’. They are not assessing people according to IB criteria. The goalposts moved. Now I’ve provided citations for my claims, when are you going to stop making stuff up and provide some evidence yourself for your own tabloid refuse?

@ Planeshift

At some point Sue, and the vast majority of disabled people – was a net contributor to the tax system. Part of the contract is the right – yes a right – that you will be supported if you need to. So its her fucking money as well. Tell me, do you think OAPs are getting other people’s money or merely getting what they are entitled to after decades of paying in?

I’m sorry to say the money Sue contributed was spent long ago and OAP’s are, and will be, funded by current or future taxation. National Insurance is basically a compulsory Ponzi scheme and I think we are fast approaching the point where the suckers can’t or won’t invest any more.

People with severe disabilities are unlikely to ever be able to contribute to the tax system, so presumably in libertarian land we should just let them starve or abort them – because all that matters are the rights of taxpayers after all…..

Not really up to your normal standard of debate, mate. As I’ve said here many times, I favour a system of Citizens Basic Income with enhanced payments for those with additional needs. Of course there would still have to be some evidence provided of these.

Pagar @ 90

Of course there would still have to be some evidence provided of these.

Would you be at least willing to accept that such evidence would have to be based on typical ‘real life’ scenarios and not just a system designed to appease some jumped up little scumbag in the Labour Party?

@87 “Atos didn’t change any rules. Any rule changes are for the government to make. But I am enjoying the endless excuse-mongering that is going on here. By all means, quote the changes and then we can judge. You can’t can you?”

Obviously the rule change was by parliament and/or the secretary of state- that is elementary.

The old rules are found in the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Regulations 1995 made under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.

The new rules are in the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008 made under the Welfare Reform Act 2007. The regualtions have been amended several times since 2008 with the criteria changing twice since then, I believe.

Many people claiming under earlier rules are now being assessed under newer rules with completely different criteria. There is no evidence that merely because someone fails the ATOS assessment that they provided incorrect information at any stage.

@87 SMFS

Whether or not I like the Atos test is irrelevant – Tribunal judges don’t care about my personal opinion – opinion should have nothing to do this – facts, evidence and law are what’s important. What is relevant is that in 90% of the cases I take (and other advisers in mine and other organisations), where a person has been found fit for work by ATOS, the decision is overturned by Tribunal.

Whether or not a person is fit for work or not is governed by legislation. An appeal Tribunal looks at the law and the evidence provided and decides impartially. When so many Atos decisions are overturned with effective representation, this in itself shows a test not fit for purpose – it is not correctly deciding who is and is not fit for work. Even without representation 40% of cases are won at appeal – even this number is far too high for an adequately performing test of capability for work.

Please state your qualifications to decide whether or not the current WCA is assessing people correctly? How many WCA’s have you been to? How many Tribunals? How many people have you met who have failed the assessment? How much doctors evidence have you looked at to see whether each test was conducted fairly? Do you have a thorough knowledge of the criteria for assessing ESA claimants? How’s your knowledge of Upper Tribunal decisions with regards to ESA? Exactly what evidence do you base your ‘knowledge’ on?

There are a set of descriptors that the claimant should be assessed on, to decide capability for work, the Atos test does not adequately assess these descriptors – therefore it is not fit for purpose – between 40-90% of Tribunal cases agree the decision was wrong.

And my ‘anecdote’ was nothing to do with data, but an example of how someone could be too sick to work, but still legitimately be found fit for work due to current holes in the ESA descriptors.

@93 “And my ‘anecdote’ was nothing to do with data, but an example of how someone could be too sick to work, but still legitimately be found fit for work due to current holes in the ESA descriptors.”

Exactly. I would propose the following (not entirely seriously) to see how it is received by those who agree with the current ESA criteria: when someone is found fit for work by the current ATOS test, employers are barred from refusing employment on any ground related to that test. This is the logical consequence of the (wrong) view that the ESA criteria fairly assess ability to work. So if you have an applicant with severe fatigue or depression who can do some limited work inefficiently for 4-5 hours a day, an employer CANNOT use the inefficiency, limted abilities, or limited hours to refuse the job.

Watch as reverse gear is engaged with record speed.

95. Leon Wolfson

@90 – Ah, so, you’re one of THOSE people. Let the disabled die, let pensions wither, let society fall. Simply because tax is evil and must be eradicated.

96. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Exactly. I would propose the following (not entirely seriously) to see how it is received by those who agree with the current ESA criteria: when someone is found fit for work by the current ATOS test, employers are barred from refusing employment on any ground related to that test. This is the logical consequence of the (wrong) view that the ESA criteria fairly assess ability to work. So if you have an applicant with severe fatigue or depression who can do some limited work inefficiently for 4-5 hours a day, an employer CANNOT use the inefficiency, limted abilities, or limited hours to refuse the job.

I’d go further, if ATOS say terminal cancer patients are fit for work, let ATOS find it for them and pay them solely on their success rate.

Incidentally, certain people like to claim that what ATOS to do is a ‘medical’ and judging by the testimonies on Sue’s (and others) site, it isn’t, not even remotely.

I’ve been through two medicals for insurance purposes and oddly enough when the incentives were reversed and the company (I assume the doctor also had some liability) I was working for had a lot of money to lose there were no check boxes, questions about shopping nor were the results fed into software developed by US insurance companies to reject claims.

What there was on both occasions was two hours of disturbingly thorough examination.

Anyone can become disabled at any point in their lives. Some of the people railing against Sue might want to consider that.

How would you like it if you had a physical or mental health condition which meant you can’t work, and others sneered at you because of that.

Oh, and #1:

The licence fee costs £3 a week. Are you suggesting that people too sick to work should only get enough money to cover bare essentials?

Clearly the majority of this blog’s readers will disagree with what I have to say on this, but I can provide what I believe is a fairly good explanation for why the general public is more interested in benefit fraudsters than tax evaders or avoiders I.e. Why 2000 pounds of benefit fraud seems more scandalous than 2000 in evaded tax from a builder or tradesman..

The issue is one of perceived moral culpability. The benefit fraudster is abusing a system which has been set up in earnest to help the vulnerable – it is analogous to a con-artist playing on your feelings of charity or sympathy to relieve you of money. Taxpayers may be relatively happy with the notion that their contributions be spent on the truly deserving; when it is perverted in this way the rationale is undermined.

The tax evader or avoider by contrast is employing devious or cunning means to reduce the sizeable burden that the British state places on his shoulders – some might even go so far as to say that when around 50 per cent of your income is being trousered by the State, one is morally justified in resisting, legally or illegally.

This may come as a surprise to readers of this blog to whom the poor and vulnerable are the victims of capitalism and corporate greed, whilst the rich are the perpetrators whose evil deeds are mitigated by appropriate taxation. However, that’s just how ordinary people see it. Benefit fraud is theft, and well, fraud. Tax evasion/avoidance is a greyer moral area, sometimes condemnable and sometimes understandable.

Bill Nighy, you will struggle to find a single person here who thinks there is no benefit fraud and doesn’t share strong enmity towards those that commit it.

That might come as a surprise to people that don’t listen.

100. Leon Wolfson

@98 – The daily fail readers, certainly. Why should policy pander to them, again?

@97 – They are often not even getting that now (relying on Charity’s aid to make up the difference), and the situation is going to get far worse.

101. Leon Wolfson

@100 – Yes, but the sums spent on suppressing it are uneconomic and cannot be justified in terms of resources at present. We need the majority of those people working on collecting tax, not chasing benefit fraud. In better times we can afford to worry about far smaller amounts of fraud.

102. Chaise Guevara

@ 98 Bill Nighy

“Benefit fraud is theft, and well, fraud. Tax evasion/avoidance is a greyer moral area, sometimes condemnable and sometimes understandable.”

That’s not a distinction between the two crimes, it’s a description of how Bill Nighy feels about them. Basically, you appear to be happier with rich people stealing than poor people stealing. Suit yourself.

That said, your point about benefit fraud seeming extra bad because it involves exploiting a charitable system is a good one. I know that I’d condemn theft from any store, but I’d judge the thief more harshly for stealing from Age Concern rather than HMV.

103. Bill Nighy

@102 Chaise Guevara

Well it seems we agree on my point about charity, but we definitely disagree where you label both tax evasion and benefit fraud as theft.

Stealing or theft involves removing another’s property, taking possession of it, and intending to deny the other of it permanently. When you fail to pay your taxes are you removing the property of the government?

Clearly not. If I had to put a legal label on it other than tax evasion, it seems most like breach of contract. There exists a legal obligation to settle a quantity of money, and you fail to do so on time or in full, thus engaging the State’s wrath.

As someone who’s openly ‘fine’ when out and about (it means I’m having a ‘good day’ if I’ve left the house at all), I can’t help but feel every comment I hear about how every sick person in the country is a filthy, thieving leech is quite a personal attack.

My main comment is, however, if this isn’t about trying to please the tabloids, and is about getting people off benefits and back into work, at this time of austerity, does it not make more financial sense to concentrate on getting the healthy, recently out of work people back into gainful employment, instead of throwing resources at shoehorn someone obviously not able to work back into an unsuitable position for a week or so before it becomes too much for them and they have to start back at square one, with all the stress of reapplying for benefits? (yes, quite a long question).

Surely those recently out of work are going to be far easier to find new jobs for and get back into the system, when we’re out of this financial pit that we’re in, we can afford the luxury of harassing the sick to please the Mail and its readers.

105. Leon Wolfson

@104 – You’re confusing the Tory’s moral crusade with anything resembling an economic one. They’re HAPPY with Plan A. They’re HAPPY that they’ve got an excuse to freeze benefits and to strip worker’s rights.

The only remotely surprising thing is that the LibDems are so lost to reason that they’ve signed on the dotted line with their party’s soul.

106. Chaise Guevara

@ 103 Bill Nighy

“Stealing or theft involves removing another’s property, taking possession of it, and intending to deny the other of it permanently. When you fail to pay your taxes are you removing the property of the government?”

Clearly not.”

I’d say yes, you are. That money belongs to the state, hence its right to demand it. I think you’re confusing property and possession – just because you’re holding something doesn’t mean you own it.

“If I had to put a legal label on it other than tax evasion, it seems most like breach of contract. There exists a legal obligation to settle a quantity of money, and you fail to do so on time or in full, thus engaging the State’s wrath.”

Well, ok, but in what way is the difference between breach of contract and theft important in making a moral assessment, if the outcome is the same? Consider two scenarios:

1) I own a shop, and you steal an item from it worth £100.
2) I own a shop, and you take an item from it worth £100 having signed a contract saying that you will pay me next month. You then renege on the contract and disappear.

What about scenario 2 suggests that your actions are less “wrong”, or that I should be less angry? Either way, I’m down £100 due to illegal and dishonest behaviour.

@104 That is a very good point about good days and bad days.

However it is probably a misconception to think of getting people off ESA as equivalent to getting them back to work. They can and do just stop people’s only income without any regard for whether any work is available to them or not.

108. Bill Nighy

@106 Chaise Guevara,

I think your ideological perspective probably explains best why you refute the distinction I was trying to make: “that money belongs to the State”. So in your eyes, the state is the shop, the taxpayer has taken some of the State’s property home with him, and then failing to return the required amount to the State is effectively fraud.

That’s your view apparently. I think when you actually look at your income or gains as being entirely your property, it’s hard to see failing to meet your tax bill as tantamount to the (2) shop scenario. The money isn’t the State’s property in the first place: it is only via the laws of taxation that the obligation is imposed. And for what I guess must be down to deterrence and efficacy of enforcement, this legal obligation is enforced via the criminal courts rather than the civil ones.

On a tangential point, under English common law property and possession legally speaking can amount to the same thing. Possession of a thing is a proprietary right in it which is good against the whole world until another person with a superior proprietary right can prove their entitlement to it. For example, if you find a wallet on the ground, your mere possession of it actually counts as ‘property’, until I turn up and prove that the wallet belongs to me because I paid for it and withdrew its contents.

On another tangential point, could somebody explain to me where the view that ‘your money belongs to the State’ comes from? Is it Marx? Or a more modern socialist like Richard Murphy?

109. Leon Wolfson

@108 – If you don’t believe in a social contract and place yourself out of civilised society, sure. I’ve never been sure why so many on the right like to boast about their lack of empathy and hatred for social structures, but hey!

110. Chaise Guevara

@ 108 Bill Nighy

“That’s your view apparently. I think when you actually look at your income or gains as being entirely your property, it’s hard to see failing to meet your tax bill as tantamount to the (2) shop scenario.” The money isn’t the State’s property in the first place: it is only via the laws of taxation that the obligation is imposed.”

I won’t deny that there’s a big psychological difference between scenario 2 and not paying tax. But property, if it means anything, refers to what you are entitled to keep under law. So it is the State’s property, not yours.

“On a tangential point, under English common law property and possession legally speaking can amount to the same thing. Possession of a thing is a proprietary right in it which is good against the whole world until another person with a superior proprietary right can prove their entitlement to it.”

Well, by the same token, your salary appears to be yours until the state tells you how much you owe (assuming you pay tax manually). Possession can AMOUNT to the same thing as property in practice, but the concept is different (as an analogy, being guilty of a crime can amount to the same thing as innocence if you’re never caught). What this amounts to is that, in cases where ownership is unclear, we err in favour of whoever’s holding the asset at the time. This is simply a practical rule that developed in recognition of the fact that courts are not omniscient.

“On another tangential point, could somebody explain to me where the view that ‘your money belongs to the State’ comes from? Is it Marx? Or a more modern socialist like Richard Murphy?”

I assume it depends on the socialist – and don’t think I haven’t noticed you shifting the goalposts on what the viewpoint is. Socialists (whether they express it this way or not) believe that some of the assets in your possession belong to the state: ‘your money belongs to the State’ firstly makes it sound more like a belief in no personal ownership whatsoever, and secondly is phrased to sound like a contradiction in terms.


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