Ian Duncan-Smith is not the only offender by any means, but is the worst right now. He has been shown in the past to be happy to lie about workfare, mislead about unemployment, and smear Remploy workers. Just a couple of days ago, in order to try to justify cuts to tax credits, he invented some figures about how the amount we pay has risen by 58%, but when you ask HMRC (who pay tax credits), they’ll tell you it has risen by just 8%.
Alongside this is the usual ploy of pushing together figures for fraud and error, in order to make it sound like loads of people are cheating the system. IDS claimed this cost £10bn over a decade. In fact, fraud accounted for just £1.2bn of this, with error by claimants and HMRC dwarfing that. IDS – and other politicians – typically present these two figures together, not just with tax credits but with benefits as a whole… it’s obvious the trick they are pulling once pointed out of course. Across the benefits system, fraud accounts for just £1.2bn (0.8% of spending), whilst error is nearly twice that at £2.1bn (1.3%). OF course you’ll only hear politicians talking about £3bn of fraud and error.
It’s also been said that in the past 5 years benefit payments have risen by 20%, whilst wages have risen by 12.5%. Indeed this is true, but it’s presented in percentages not actual money because, well see for yourself:
In the past 5 years, benefits have risen by £11.85/week whilst average pay has risen by £49/week.
Could it be that since 2007 we’ve largely been in the biggest depression since the 1800s causing real wages to fall? Meanwhile, benefits being linked to inflation have continued to rise…
If we go back to 2002, benefits have risen by 32%, whilst wages have risen by 36%. Go back further and the disparity is even greater. In 1979, unemployment benefit was worth 20% of the average wage – now it’s 15%.
Of course, the fact that benefits have only risen in line with inflation whilst pay hasn’t kept up is not a reason to cut benefits, it’s a reason to increase wages. It’s also worth noting that benefit cuts will affect low paid workers who are likely those who have seen their wages frozen or falling the past few years.
The lies and misleading “truths” seem almost endless:
- claiming that mandatory workfare is voluntary,
- that we have to cut DLA because of fraud (fraud accounts for 0.5% or £60m of DLA spending), that the rise in DLA – down to demographics and the switch of pensioners from Attendance Allowance to DLA – is also a reason it needs to be cut,
- that 75% of people who claim disability benefits are skiving (Actually around 23% are found fully fit for work and this will include many who have been wrongly assessed – 20% of decisions made by ATOS are overturned at tribunal),
- presenting the 5 families who are entitled to over £100,000/year in housing benefits (as a result of the sell off of council housing that has left the public sector with too few large houses) as the norm,
- talking about families with 3 generations of worklessness when actually not a single such family exists in the UK (and only a very small number of families with 2 generations that have never worked),
- muttering something about 120,000 troubled families – a number that has no basis in fact. Chris Grayling even went so far as to claim there are families with four generations of worklessness,
- always talking about the huge total social security spending without ever mentioning that 53% of that goes to pensioners (PDF: Table 3) – a group very few people would want to see have less money.
Please add the lies, mistruths and half-truths you hear of into our comments – in no way is this a complete list!
Even the DWP themselves are doing it, disappearing or rewriting documents to cover for Chris Grayling – who “misled parliament” over the censorship of a benefits video and claimed £70,000 for a second home whilst living just 17 miles from Parliament. He has now moved to Justice secretary, presumably so he can tell lies about the tribunal system in order to finish its destruction after the removal of legal aid in April 2013).
It’s not just the Tories, on Adrian Goldberg’s BBC Radio WM show this morning (from around 22 minutes), Liam Byrne (Labour MP for Hodge Hill – the consituency with the highest unemployment in the UK – and shadow minister for the DWP) talked about a “culture of worklessness” as he pushed for more compulsory work placement schemes – in this case one which forces people into 6 months paid work after 2 years of unemployment, encouraging employers to take part in the scheme by offering subsidies of about £4,000. Refuse the job and you’ll get sanctioned. Of course, if anyone on JSA refuses a job offer at any time they’ll be sanctioned, so quite what this is other than a subsidy to employers I’m not sure. It could be argued that money would be better spent on investment projects, employing and training people directly, but New Labour, like the Tories are in thrall to the private sector, so don’t expect to hear this solution to unemployment from them anytime soon.
As has already been said, there are no families with three generations of workless adults and very, very few with two generations. There is no evidence of a “culture of worklessness” being created and transmitted through family structures. Any such “culture of worklessness” that does exist is more likely to be due to de-industrialisation and the automation of what industry is left and the lack of vision or support from successive governments to rebuild areas which have been left without enough jobs for the people who are there. But again, you won’t hear either party talking about this particular aspect, because their ideological stance will not allow them to accept that their policies do not address the real issue, or because they consider the real issue to hard to address, much better to invent and issue you can then tackle and thus be seen to be doing something.
There are so many lies pouring from the mouths of politicians these days, not just on benefits but outright lies about laws on squatting told so they can introduce anti-squatting laws or talking about rising employment when it’s mostly part-time work or saying that bed:nurse ratios in the NHS are rising (they are – it’s because beds are being cut and more nurses are part-time) or counting people in forced unpaid work as in a job.
In the case of benefits, it looks like the aim is to reduce and destroy our social security system. Underpinned by an ideology of charity and victorian values is a set of policy ideas pushed by think tanks like Policy Exchange and the Institute of Economic Ideas, with funding for research coming from insurance companies like UNUM [See also: this article from Black Triangle Campaign, and this article in the Private Eye) and outsourcing companies like A4e and Capita who have the endgame of privatising our social security system (in the case of UNUM into a private insurance scheme, outsourcing companies have their eye on the taxpayer funded programs like the Work Programme which reduces peoples chances of getting a job, but does pay quite nicely to the companies who run it).
So how can you tell if a politican is lying? Their lips are moving.