Do Iain Duncan Smith's claims on welfare add up? Oct 8, 2012 23:57:26 GMT 1
Post by nickd on Oct 8, 2012 23:57:26 GMT 1
Do Iain Duncan Smith's claims add up?
"Small wonder then that Labour left us a growing army of those who don’t work. - 5 million people on out of work benefits after the recession – 1 million of them for a decade or more."[/i][/color]
This was one of several claims Iain Duncan Smith made at the Conservative party conference yesterday. In mentioning it he is clearly inferring that he belongs to a government which is going to tackle what he perceives to be a problem with those who have become welfare dependent for a decade or more. You can read the full speech here as I'm only going to deal with selected highlights which show how IDS is deliberately misrepresenting the case for making a further £10 billion pounds worth of cuts in the welfare bill by once again pointing the finger at those on welfare in the hope the public will fall for it.
The claims which interest me most are those surrounding the implementation of Universal Credit, Labour's legacy on welfare, the effectiveness of the Work Programme and how the Conservatives purport to be tackling long term welfare dependency.
(1) Firstly we'll take a look at IDS's claim on longer - term welfare:
"1 million out of work for a decade or more"
In making the statement we then have to look at how IDS is tacking welfare dependency of a decade or more. The government has now been in power for a period of 2 and a half years which is long enough to have made significant progress on what IDS sees as the problem. The tax payer has a right to see how well the government's 'flagship' Work programme is working - so let's take a closer look at those who have been welfare dependent for 10 or more years. The thrust of IDS's sweeping statements were all aimed at laying the blame on Labour for creating a culture of welfare dependency. So is IDS and his government right in all his assertions?
It's fair to point out that IDS is fighting the clock on long term dependency. After all someone who had been on out of work benefits for 10 years before the Coalition came to power will now have been on benefits for 12 and half years unless the radical Work Programme is doing what it says on the IDS tin.
It's not looking good, I hate to break it to those who believe in what IDS is leading you to believe but the Work Programme is doing next to nothing to tackle those who have been on benefits for more than a decade.
The starting point is to take a look at how many claimants have been referred and attached to the Work Programme:
Three quarter of a million attachments seems impressive as a headline figure but as always it's the underlying figures which provide the more constructive evidence over what's really working. We can make some reasonable assumptions in working out the proportion of the 693,000 attachments who have been on benefits for a decade or more:
It's quite simple really. We use the number of 'attachments' from the statistics because it's safe to assume that if you are not attached to the Work Programme then you are not going to be helped by it.
The next step is to exclude all the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) claims because they can only relate to claims which have been started since the new allowance was first introduced in 2008. No claimant having only claimed ESA can possibly have been on it for more than a decade because it simply hasn't been around that long.
On this basis we can deduct a figure of 57,000 claimants (8.2%) representing those in the ESA payment groups from the 693,000 attachment count.
After which we move to the large number of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claims because by and large we know these are subject to fortnightly signing on at the Jobcentre. If someone has remained on Jobseeker's Allowance for a whole decade they will have signed on no less than 260 times. Fortnightly checking of a JSA claimant is highly likely to reduce the possibility that a claimant could have claimed as 'actively available for and seeking work' for a whole decade. If a JSA claim was allowed to run on for as long as 10 years it would be reasonable to lay the blame at the DWP in failing to ensure the Jobcentre was doing its job properly. It would be totally unrealistic to suggest that huge numbers of JSA claimants were being allowed to continuously claim their jobseeker's allowance for 10 year periods.
So we can deduct a massive number of 633,000 (91.4%) claimants who were in the JSA payment groups.
Which whittles away an almighty 690,000 (99.6%) ESA and JSA claimants from the total 693,000 attachment figures.
This leaves us with just under 2,000 (0.3%) who were in the IB/IS volunteer group and just over 1,000 who were in the more recently introduced 'JSA Prison Leavers group', which accounted for 1.1% of all referrals during the two months to April 2012. The Prison group are unlikely to factor in to the equation but the IB/IS 'volunteer' group will - more later.
But we do have to make some objective concessions
To be fair to IDS we need to make some concessions from the large number of ESA and JSA cohorts quoted so far . These concern the groups of claimants who have been on Income Support for incapacity or Incapacity Benefit. This is because it is only those claimant groups who have an Incapacity Benefit history who are likely to have had a 10 year claim history in the groups being helped by the Work Programme to date. However despite the concession there is little comfort to IDS in claiming any kind of victory in 'curing' welfare dependency of a decade or more.
Let's take a look at the cohorts related to Incapacity benefit claims:
[li] 3,600 JSA Claimants who previously claimed Incapacity Benefit
[/li][li] 1,800 Income Support claimants who previously claimed Incapacity Benefit and who voluntarily participated in the Work Programme
[/li][li] 10,600 Claimants in total with an Incapacity Benefit claim history[/b]
The statistics should make grim reading for IDS because it illustrates that out of 693,000 attachments to the Work Programme a total of 10,600 have a claim history consistent with a 10 year period on the range of benefits covered by the Work Programme.
That's an attachment rate of just over 1.5%!
It brings into question government's claim over achieving any success of reviewing 11,000 Incapacity Benefit claimants a week in the process of what is known as 'conversion'. This is where the claimant ends up in most cases on Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment & Support Allowance usually as a result of having to go through the rigorous 'Work Capability Assessment' then having to go through the appeal process.
The main-roll out of migration of claimants from IB/income-related Income Support onto ESA began on 28 February 2011 and is due to finish in March 2014. The DWP quote:
"At the end of February, we will begin this introductory phase. Letters will be sent to 1,000 customers a week nationally, marking the commencement of their reassessment. So a total of around 300 people will be assessed in each reassessment centre over this period. In April, we will step up the implementation and increase the number of cases to around 7,000 a week. From May we will be processing the full case load of around 11,000 cases per week. This steady ramp up of activity will ensure that Jobcentre Plus and its partners are ready and can deal with the volume of cases as it builds. Customers' reactions to the changes will be closely monitored and lessons applied."
So despite reassessing an enormous numbers of Incapacity Benefits claims the reality is that of all those reassessed a maximum of 10,600 have been attached to the Work Programme according to the latest DWP figures.
The total number of Incapacity Benefit attachments is less than the DWP assess in one week!
Not one to rub salt in to the wounds but 11,000 assessments a week and all this is leading to is 10,600 IB related attachments in the entire time the Work Programme has been running. I'm mindful that of the 10,600 attachments 1,800 claimants voluntarily attached themselves to the programme.
And remember: an attachment to the Work Programme is no evidence at all that the claimant has been assisted into sustainable employment.
Therefore any claim IDS makes to be tackling welfare dependency of a decade or more is one without any substance to back it up. [/size]
Monthly average breakdown
I find it astonishing that out of the total number of 693,000 benefit claimants (all groups) attached to the Work Programme only 10,600 Incapacity benefit related claims (marginally over 1.5%) transpire to be the very group IDS claims to be 'tackling' in what he refers to as 'endemic worklessness'. His claims become all the more difficult to understand when you break it down into the monthly averages which show that the DWP are assessing around 47,600 Incapacity benefit cases a month of which around 17,025 end up being disposed of in the appeals process each month. Around 6,180 each month go on to win their cases but only 963 end up being attached to the programme despite clear evidence they are eligible to join it because their limited capability for work has been established as a result of the appeal process.
The figures show something is going dramatically wrong between the time cases are confirmed by the Tribunals and the time they end up being provided with what Employment & Support Allowance is intended to offer; - it's meant to be the provision of 'support' in to employment.
Latest statistics from the Work Programme released by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on referrals and attachments to the Work Programme which were released on 8th August 2012. (1st June 2011 to the end of April 2012). You can view the official DWP data source using this link.