Wednesday, 24 April 2013

When does spinning turn into lying?

Two versions of the same story appeared in the news feeds this morning, and I had to read them carefully to work out what was going on.
First, there was the Daily Mail's "One million people who are fit to work have been on benefits for three years".  Then, in the Express, "The one million who are FIT TO WORK but live on benefits".  That one, not surprisingly, is the more disgusting.  It goes on: "A MILLION welfare claimants have lived on working-age benefits for three out of the last four years, despite being judged capable of trying to find a job, shocking figures revealed last night."  You might have worked it out by now.  Yes, about a million of the out-of-work are long-term unemployed.  Do we read on to find out how the Work Programme is helping them, or is going to be changed to help them?  Don't bother, there's no mention of it.  This is from a report to be published by Iain Duncan Smith.  He's more interested in family breakdown, and asserts that "local authorities have already turned around the lives of 1,675 troubled families."  This is the outsourcing of the "troubled families" intervention scheme.  Note that there is no indication of what "turned around the lives" actually means.  Someone got a job?  Who knows.  But the Mail has a pretty graph showing "How Britain's benefits bill has risen" with never a mention of the fact that a huge chunk of the benefits bill consists of pensions.  
So these rags intend their readers to infer that a million people out there are too lazy to work, and add to the clamour for a clampdown.  That isn't spin; that's lying.
For a more truthful account, the Guardian looks at a report by the Fawcett Society which shows that since 2010 almost three times as many women as men have become long-term unemployed.  Men have got 60% of the new private sector jobs.  A big factor in this trend is that women are suffering most from the public sector cuts, losing the low wage, often part-time jobs.  Of course, IDS has nothing to say about this.
Another disturbing story appeared in the Observer on Sunday.  The social fund grew out of the long-standing practice of giving emergency grants to people on benefits to pay for necessary items such as beds or cookers (second-hand, of course) which they didn't have the money to buy.  Labour turned these into loans.  Now, local councils are complaining that more and more people are coming to them for emergency loans, because the jobcentres haven't mentioned the availability of the money.  Indeed, it appears that jobcentre workers have been issued with explicit guidance by the DWP that they should not advertise the existence of the loans so as not to "encourage dependency on the benefits system", and simply pass the buck to the councils.  And it seems that the emergencies which cause the need for short-term loans are no longer the one-off large items but such mundane things as food.
We're now told that the publication of performance data for the WP has been put back.  It was due on 28 May but will now be published on 27 June, and will cover the period to March 2013.  The vow of silence on the whole subject of the WP doesn't augur well for the figures.

On a more general note, I want to recommend a book.  Michael Sandel is an economist, but one who writes in a very lucid way about economics in the real world.  His book What Money Can't Buy - the moral limits of markets (pub. Allen Lane, 2012) is an excellent introduction to thinking about the issue of private profit, ethics and the public arena.

22 comments:

  1. The Torygraph is carrying a similar article about “fitness to work.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10013943/A-million-on-benefit-capable-of-work.html

    IDS is unable (or at any rate unwilling) to distinguish the truth from fiction, as his own CV demonstrated a decade ago. It is impossible to persuade a leopard to covet stripes instead of spots on its pelt.

    IDS’ perpetual propaganda, coupled with his wholly misleading use of figures that he claims are ‘official statistics,’ does seem to be producing a phenomenally popular policy amongst Tory voters and sympathisers It is also wrong-footing Ed Miliband, so it does seem to be a very effective tactic all round.

    The sole objective seems to be to force people to stop claiming Benefits and for their claims to have stopped by May 2015, if possible. At the same time, other members of the Cabinet want to abandon all forms of employment protection for workers.

    This is unbridled, naked capitalism of a type that is likely to lead to social unrest, in my view. Why would somebody who has been let down by the social contract be willing to pay any taxes to the Govt via HMRC?

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  2. The Mail and Express articles highlight clearly what I call parliament governed by opinion polls. We often hear govt ministers saying "most people agree" or "public opinion agrees with" whilst spouting the usual claptrap.

    However, public opinion is a commodity that can be bought and sold. It can also be easily manipulated and shaped to fit a particular agenda. A couple of years ago it was the govt droning on about public sector waste and how this was going to help reduce the deficit.. Thus the governments right wing attack dogs in the media came up with examples of public sector / local authority "non-jobs". Perfectly set the scene to turn private sector workers against their public sector counterpoints.

    Now we have the same regarding unemployment. Jobseekers are now the scapegoats. The constant drip-drip-drip effect makes many believe that the % of monies being spent on JSA is lot higher than it actually is without thinking that most benefits are in the form of pensions, in work benefits and child benefits. People think benefit fraud is a lot higher than it actually is too. Thus we hear the supposed stories of people being unemployed yet being able to afford full Sky subscription packages and 55" flat screen TV's. I did actually hear that on a radio phone in fairly recently! It is a perverse and corrosive form of Chinese whispers!

    As far as the WP figures are concerned, I daresay very few of us here are not at all surprised that the publication of the results are being delayed YET AGAIN! Smith was asked recently if he could survive on £53 a week. He said he could. 400,000+ people asked him to either put up or shut up. I would like to put another question to this man. If the WP figures are no better than last time, or at least show no noticeable improvement based on the same criteria on which the providers were measured last time, will he do the most decent thing left open to him and resign??? I think we all know the calibre of Smith to know what the answer will be!!!

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  3. The article states "A MILLION welfare claimants have lived on working-age benefits for three out of the last four years, despite being judged capable of trying to find a job, shocking figures revealed last night."
    So there are a million long term unemployed. Since working-age benefits (mostly JSA) are conditional upon ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR WORK it is safe to deduce that these million people have been actively looking for work (otherwise they wouldn't be receiving benefit). So not only have they been "judged capable of trying to find a job", they have been judged as actually trying to find a job!!!
    The Mail and the Express are just gutter snipes - unfortunately too many people read and believe them.

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    1. Er there are no jobs.

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  4. Let me see if I can follow this "WP" time line,the last results were published on NOV 27 and were for 14 months or was it for 12? The next batch will be from Nov till March? If this is the case why will it take an extra Month and in total 3 months to process these figures? Based on the last figures,which I believe were for 14 Months,why would they not also include performance up until 28 May (20 Months?) as one of the excuses were the Programme had not had enough time filter through,bit of a confusing Post?I know,but in Nov the DWP set a schedule because of the delay in Nov results and now they are "Adjusting" the dates yet again,What are they hiding?

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    1. @mkmky
      "What are they hiding"
      Oh I think we all know what they are trying to hide! Expect the spin to say that the figures show an enormous improvement on those appalling first set of figures. Actually such an "improvement" is a statistical quirk resulting from the fact that it takes time for people to be in "sustained employment" and thus count as a successful outcome. The real measure of success/failure is against the figures set out in the DWP's original ITT in particular para 3.14: I quote:
      DWP will set a non-intervention performance for payment groups 1, 2 and 6 reflecting the number of job outcomes that would be expected to occur in the absence of the WP. This is calculated by DWP based on analysis of historical job entry rates.
      The relevant 2 year non intervention figs (1 year in brackets) are:
      JSA 18 to 24 - 30% (5%)
      JSA 25 and over - 25% (5%)
      ESA - 15% (5%)

      Expect abysmal failure, loads of spin and pleas for more money for the "providers"

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    2. A thought on the period that the results will be based on,it appears to me the last "Excuse" was that the results were so low because the Programme had not run long enough to get"The Big" picture,yet they are only reporting to March,I wonder why? Was their a surge of temp jobs over Xmas? If it takes 3 Months to gather the data then,I suppose the WP Providers do not get paid for at least 90 days..Pull the other one,they put in a claim from day one.If I have been mislead by a former WP Adviser,who showed me something called a PRaP guideline to claim for attachment and outcome money,them I will withdraw this statement.

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    3. It's entirely possible that it takes a long time for payments to get to the providers, and that wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with when the data is gathered.

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    4. But it seems that before the DWP disburses anything they must have a claim? So similar to an invoice (ie:tracking stock) it should be able to be correlated at least weekly,if not daily.

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    5. But that has nothing to do with when the provider gets paid.

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    6. Sorry think I am off track,my point was to do with performance and why they have delayed reporting it till June and only up until March.

      Under PRaP guidelines the DWP is notified instantly,regardless of when the actual monies are disbursed,I guess my question regards the so called lack of data available and the lag time. It seems like a pick and chose attitude.

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  5. How many of these people are on the WP then? If they have been on benefits for the past four years I'd say quite a few, wouldn't you?

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  6. Mention to JCP you want to apply for a short term benefit advance payment, it will make them aware you know what it is you are applying for. They should give you a phone number.

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  7. As Mark Twain so famously put it "There are lies, damn lies and statistics". The WP statistics will cover some 20 months of the programme, and would need to show significant improvement to hit even 5 per cent targets.

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  8. The right-wing press are attempting to lay the ground work for further welfare cuts and possibly the abolition of unemployment benefit to be replaced by a workfare related benefit. A lot of people would support it. BUT, I think the Tories have badly misjudged the widespread support that the Welfare State still has and this support will shown next week in the local elections.

    I didn't vote in the last General Election but I will be voting for Labour, not because I am a Labour supporter but because if the Tories win they will interpret this as a mandate to destroy the Wefare State COMPLETELY.

    I reckon there will be a lot of people like me voting Labour next week and I predict the Tories will lose a lot of council seats.

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  9. As a point of interest when I attended my last A4E appt.the first thing mentioned to me and in rather urgent sounding tones was had I completed the half price bus pass application from the jobcentre.

    When I said 'no' the advisor explained somewhat excitedly that in doing so I would 'save A4E money... oh and save you too of course.'

    Hours later it struck me that this was a possible indicator of their struggling finances.

    The advisor forgot to give me the form before I left.

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    1. Also noticed they will not authorize travel to a interview unless they talk to the potential employer first.

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    2. I see the half price bus concession doesnt apply to people who live in the north west and just for info JCP also check with potential employers before authorization of funding for travel expenses to interview, its not just the WP providers.

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  10. While assigned to MWA activity,I claimed for mileage,the allowance was .20p per mile,I queried this and asked what they claimed when they travelled..."We get .45p for official business" Why the difference?

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  11. The One True Elg27 April 2013 at 03:04

    The elephant in the room is, as always the fact there aren't enough jobs.

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    1. Now you are just being silly,yesterday there were 11 positions offered on the UJM,Catalogue delivery, self employed on a commission basis £100 to secure the catalogues(refundable,against commission) Sorry to say I missed this once in a life time opportunity

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  12. wouldn't it make more sense to train people for the jobs that are avialable there are any number of cnc operator jobs, hgv drivers etc needed and fill the jobs that ARE there and then work on the fact that people are losing their jobs all the time and there isn't the jobs out there for everyone to be employed....

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