The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions continues to use misleading figures on the growth of disability benefit claims to underpin his case for reform.
Iain Duncan Smith has yet again ‘misspoken’ on disability benefits, inflating the scale of those who claim welfare assistance. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph today, he repeated the misleading claim that the disability benefit bill has increased by 30% over recent years.
“We are creating a new benefit, because the last benefit grew by something like 30% in the past few years. It’s been rising well ahead of any other gauge you might make about illness, sickness, disability or for that matter general trends in society.
A lot of that is down to the way the benefit was structured so that it was very loosely defined. Second thing was that in the assessment, lots of people weren’t actually seen. Third problem was lifetime awards. Something like 70% had lifetime awards, [which] meant that once they got it…they were just allowed to fester.”
As Left Foot Forward showed over a year ago, in failing to correct the data so as to factor in the ‘maturing’ of DLA claims – the built-in growth in DLA receipt amongst people over retirement age – the 30% figure significantly exaggerates the increase in the benefit bill over the past eight years. The true increase, further corrected for demographic change, is 16%.
Several months later, in August – by which point the Welfare Reform Bill had passed the report stage in the Commons – the DWP conceded that their previous analysis ‘distorted the overall picture of growth’ in numbers of DLA claimants. Even so, Duncan Smith continues to cite the 30% figure, the cornerstorne of the DWP’s case for aggressive, sweeping reforms of disability benefit.