IDS misleads The Sun on out-of-work benefits

Iain Duncan Smith has again misused statistics on Britain's welfare bill. He wrongly told The Sun that the out-of-work benefit bill was a "huge reason" for the deficit.

Britain's welfare budget

Update 1730hrs

Fact-checking website Full Fact have also looked into IDS’s misleading briefing to The Sun, pointing out that:

“…the Sun report also fails to take into account the change from Incapacity Benefit to Employment Support Allowance, a system that came in during 2008. The study also shows that of the people claiming the new benefit, 93 per cent had face-to face ‘Work Capability Assessments’.

“Given that Full Fact has previously complained to the UK Statistics Authority about the inaccessibility of DWP data, the concerns highlighted here show just how important it is for Government departments make the information they are submitting to the press accessible to all.”

Full Fact are also:

“…still trying to obtain figures from the Department to establish what proportion of people were exempt from undergoing any form of PCA [Personal Capability Assessment] in the period covered by the figures quoted in The Sun.”

Iain Duncan Smith has once again been playing fast and loose with statistics on Britain’s welfare bill. The latest embellishment in today’s Sun follows a rebuke from the Chair of the UK Statistics’ Authority last week on IDS’ department’s use of statistics.

Today, IDS claims that out-of-work benefits are “a huge part of the reason” for Britain’s deficit. The numbers are lower than in 1997 and the cost increase since the start of the recession has been due to rising unemployment.

Today’s Sun reports that:

Paying a fortune to the five million on handouts – like X Factor reject Wagner Carrilho – is a major reason the UK’s deficit soared to a crippling £155billion, Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith told The Sun…

[IDS said,] “We have managed to create a block of people in Britain who do not add anything to the greatness of this country. They have become conditioned to be users of services, not providers of money. This is a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit. We have had to borrow vast sums of money. We went on this inflated spending spree.”

The graph below shows how Britain’s welfare budget has changed since 1950. It shows a minor uptick in the welfare budget in the last three years – dwarfed by the cost in the 1980s and 1990s. On the eve of the recession in 2006-07 when the Tories supported Labour’s spending plans, social security benefits amounted to £131.3 billion (Table C9). According to the OBR, this figure is expected to increase to an estimated £169.3 billion (Table C13) in 2010-11. Adjusted for inflation, the increase – due primarily to increasing unemployment – is equivalent to £24.1bn in today’s prices or just 1.64% of GDP – a small proportion of 10.1% deficit.

The number of people on out-of-work-benefits increased since the start of the recession after falling for a number of years. The rise was due to an increase in unemployment. The total figure of 5.34m in 2009 is lower than the 5.95m who were on out-of-work benefits in 1997 when the Tories were last in power.

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  • polittiscribe

    From your chart, spending on welfare stayed absolutely constant through 2007 & 2008, rising marginally (to 7% of GDP) in 2009, despite the fact that we endured the longest and deepest recession for 80 years. This must mean that as GDP fell sharply over that period, welfare spending must also have fallen sharply – to remain at a constant percentage. Does something not quite add up here?

  • Ash

    The next Sun scoop: “Revealed: how scrounging geese rob hard-working turkeys of the Christmas they deserve”

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  • unhappy

    The other major lie is this: “Mr Duncan Smith revealed that nearly half of those drawing incapacity benefit had been allowed to sign THEMSELVES off work.!”
    Incapacity Benefit (which was not that easy to get even with the full backing of a health professional) ceased to exist for new claimaints over 2 years ago replaced by ESA which requires a work capacity assessment run by a private company ATOS and its not very medically trained staff. The same company that told several terminally ill people that were fit to work, in some cases they even passed away before they could appeal.

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  • janie_s

    i’ve personally met a hundred people on permanent out of work benefits due to illness etc. don’t know what they’r calling it this week. not one has ever had anything wrong with them. just scroungers.

    i do have a friend who’s is very disabled but he works and would never consider being a doley.

  • hindle-a

    It is worth pointing out that the Governmental agencies are also complicit in its use of statistics-both in terms of labelling the group -out of work-many people receiving IS also work and although recipients of Carers Allowance alone are not counted not an insignificant amount of Carers receive IS despite the fact that the DWP states that Carers are not included-in fact with the introduction of ESA and the fact that disabled people can no longer claim IS on the basis of disability but a Carer may this was/is one reason why the “other” IS recipients went up.That Duncan Smith labels the sick,disabled,lone parents,pensioners and Carers as not adding to the greatness of the Country and “conditioned” to be sick,disabled Carers,workers and of pensionable age but needing support is the language of the unthinking messianic ignoramus that he is.

  • hindle-a

    Janie-amazing- your medical knowledge and expertise regarding the benefit system and the complex reasons that people receive them as evidenced by your comment is a wonder to behold-gosh a hundred people-the doley benefit-new one on me-I do hope your disabled friend is receiving what they are entitled to

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  • Chris


    Exactly, morons like janie_s see disability as a totally black and white issue either you’re in a wheelchair hooked up to a ventilator or you’re a malinger.

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  • Mr. Sensible

    Not surprised…

  • hindle-a

    Chris-even people that use wheelchairs are “dubious” in the ignorants eyes-my wife cannot weight-bear and is on haemodialysis but it cannot be so when she happens to be out of her wheelchair and “looks” OK-apparently someone saw her walking recently – that is why I view anecdotal evidence as unequivocal nonsense-the trouble is the Government with their media friends both feed and tap into this ignorance and prejudice and unfortunately it works-your assessment that it is black versus white is correct and can be seen as simplistic contrasts for simple people-tax-payer v scrounger,worked all my life v workless households,genuine v fraud,even curtains closed v curtains open, simple signifiers for simple people-but it works I am afraid.

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  • Peter Lockhart

    Janes comments

    “i do have a friend who’s is very disabled but he works and would never consider being a doley.”

    Is the equivalent of “I’m not a racist, I even have black friends”
    Her ‘freind’ is lucky, most disabled people find getting work extremely difficult. First of there are far fewer jobs they would be capable of, for many manual work is not an option. This can cause a problem, not every able bodied person is suited to office work for various reasons and its the same for disabled people, so not being able to physically do manual work causes problems. Then there is access and facilities, many businesses are still inaccessible and even those which are often lack proper facilities. So that alone cuts down the number of available jobs. Then there is discriminations and it does go on and will be very difficult or even impossible to root out. Its not like racial discrimination. Its obvious that if a white person or a black person went for the same job and both had the same qualifications then both will be equally capable and can be asked to do a multitude of tasks. However an employer looking at someone whos disabled and someone who is able bodied is very likely to go for the able bodied person. Then there is just the fact many people are ill, there conditions affect how much they can do, what they can do, how long they can work, when they can work and how much time they may need off sick or for hospital visits. I know, I am that disabled person with a condition that affects my ability to maintain work. I also use a wheelchair.