UK Statistics Authority: “Serious deficiencies” in DWP use of statistics

The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority has identified "serious deficiencies" in DWP's use of statistics. It follows a series of corrections to the record yesterday by IDS.

The Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, has identified “serious deficiencies” in DWP’s use of statistics. The rebuke follows a series of corrections yesterday by Iain Duncan Smith to the use of statistics in a Parliamentary debate on housing reform.

Left Foot Forward has been documenting the misuse of statistics by Iain Duncan Smith, his deputy Chris Grayling, and officials in the Department for Work and Pensions for months. Today, Sir Michael Scholar has written to Patrick Casey of the Full Fact website in reply to a letter of concern about the use of secret briefings by the department aimed at select journalists.

Sir Michael Scholar writes:

“in the instance of the analysis of the number of people of working age who have never worked, neither this particular analysis nor the Press Release containing these statistics was made publicly available; and the source of the analysis (the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey) was not given. These were, in my view, serious deficiencies in DWP’s arrangements, and I have drawn their attention to this.”

In addition to the incident identified by Sir Michael, the DWP have issued secret briefings on housing benefit and erroneous briefings on the number of households affected by the new benefits cap.

Just yesterday, Iain Duncan Smith made three corrections to the record following a letter from Labour opponent, Douglas Alexander. His corrections concerned statistics on rents in the private housing sector where he “misled parliament“, the exaggeration of the level of discretionary housing payments, and over-stating increases in the housing benefit budget.

There remain outstanding concerns about the misuse of official figures on job vacancies and the number of net jobs that have gone to “people from overseas”.

UPDATE 27/11:

The Guardian are along in picking up this story today:

The head of the UK Statistics Authority has issued a public rebuke to welfare ministers over their use of official statistics, warning of “serious deficiencies” in the handling of unemployment data.

Sir Michael Scholar, the head of the authority, said that by failing to show the evidence for claims made by ministers, the government risked undermining public trust.

70 Responses to “UK Statistics Authority: “Serious deficiencies” in DWP use of statistics”

  1. NBeale

    Consider the differences between:
    a. The figures were right, the source should have been given.
    b. The figures were right, but the source wasn’t the one the Minister thought it was.
    c. The figures were completely bogus

    IDS (and his officials) fell foul on (a) and (b). The 45-minute claim and the dodgy dossier, are just two of the most prominent examples of (c). Spot the difference

  2. actuary21c

    RT @wdjstraw: A little bit whey, a little bit whoah: IDS' dept rebuked by UK Stats Authority for "serious deficiencies" //bit.ly/gpktcL

  3. SadButMadLad

    “Left Foot Forward has been documenting the misuse of statistics by Iain Duncan Smith, his deputy Chris Grayling, and officials in the Department for Work and Pensions for months.”

    But LFF didn’t think it worth while documenting the misuse of statistics by the Labour Government. The misuse of which was bigger and longer than that carried out by the coallition government.

    Governments always misuse statistics. It’s because they want to push their agendas even if the evidence doesn’t back it up.

    Its not the politicians who are the main ones at fault, its the civil servants. They are the ones who did it during Labour’s term and now are doing it under the Tory/Libdem government. Its endemic and in their blood.

  4. Simon Briscoe

    RT @wdjstraw: The Guardian have picked up @leftfootfwd's story on IDS' department's rebuke by the Stats Authority //bit.ly/fOmrUZ

  5. scandalousbill

    NBeale, You state:
    ““Consider the differences between:
    a. The figures were right, the source should have been given.
    b. The figures were right, but the source wasn’t the one the Minister thought it was.
    c. The figures were completely bogus”

    You also go on to say, “IDS (and his officials) fell foul on (a) and (b” You imply that they are not in violation of c).
    Patrick Casey from Fullfact.org’ writing about the correction put forward from IDS makes an interesting point.

    “The correction is welcome, even if the decision to still refer to the information as ‘national statistics’ seems curious. Records covering all areas of the country would of course be ‘national’ statistics, but it is also an official term defined by the ONS as “‘a subset of official statistics which have been certified by the UK Statistics Authority as compliant with its Code of Practice for Official Statistics” – something the figures from findaproperty, to our knowledge, are not”

    Unless you could supply a convincing argument that IDS and his officials, in their ministerial capacity, were totally ignorant with the above compliancy requirements, and further that this is to be considered as acceptable parliamentary practice, then it seems a very strong position can be maintained for their inclusion under your category c). At the very least it could indicate a purposed effort to mislead.
    Was this the difference you wished to spot?

  6. Nick Panayotopoulos

    UK Statistics Authority: "Serious deficiencies" in DWP use of statistics | Left Foot Forward: //bit.ly/hwHJL9

  7. drzogilvie

    RT @leftfootfwd: UK Statistics Authority: "Serious deficiencies" in DWP use of statistics //bit.ly/gpktcL #housingbenefit

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  17. Michael Roberts FRAS

    Disgraceful lack of transparency.

  18. Gracie Samuels

    RT @leftfootfwd: UK Statistics Authority: "Serious deficiencies" in DWP use of statistics //t.co/Zx3VYsPp more lies from 2010

  19. J.P. Grumpsukthuck

    RT @leftfootfwd: UK Statistics Authority: "Serious deficiencies" in DWP use of statistics //t.co/Zx3VYsPp more lies from 2010

  20. Jim Moore

    There has to be a way of holding politicians responsible for inventing statistics and forming policy out of them !

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