28 April 2011

What's the truth behind the Express' ESA 'outrage'?

April 28th 2011

Just as a bit of light relief from our worries about rampaging migrants who're about to snatch all of our spare jobs or our over-generous welfare benefits, today the Express offers us a chance to refocus our hatred onto that well-known thorn-in-the-side of every upright citizen - the Benefit Scrounger.  

No, don't groan! They've got evidence - really, they have: 

Press Release from the Department for Work and Pensions

Macer Hall, the Express' Political Editor writes:

FRESH outrage over Britain’s sicknote culture erupted last night after new Whitehall figures showed three-quarters of Incapacity Benefit claimants are not entitled to the money.
Nearly half a million people receiving the cash were exposed as being fit for work after undergoing medical tests in a Government crackdown on welfare scroungers.
And a further 428,000 voluntarily dropped their claims before completing the assessments - making a total of around 887 000."
'Fresh outrage......erupted..' ? Not on my TV screen, nor in the sources I've searched, since seeing this headline, in a vain effort to detect any 'outrage' at all other than in the Express.  
I did manage to find a slight hint at outrage in a small piece in the Sun which speaks of 'shock' figures:

"900,000 caught in ‘fit to work’ check

ALMOST 900,000 Brits trying to claim sickness benefit are fit to work, shock figures reveal.

Three out of four were caught out by assessments in a Government crackdown on scroungers.
Ministers said it proved they were right to shake up the welfare system." 

Most articles written after receiving the Press release from the DWP were more balanced and thoughtful.

This morning, disappointingly, the BBC appeared to carry on its website a piece about the DWP's statistics which backed them up and assumed the presumptions to be valid: Benefit Applicants - '75% Fit to Work or Drop Claims' . No attempt here to check the facts or find another point of view.

Later, I found this on the BBC site and heaved a sigh of relief! : Mark Easton's UK. 

Mark Easton

In his Blog for today, The Truth About Sicknote Britain, Mark Easton dismantles systematically the 'case' (if that's not too kind a word to use!) put by the Express:

"According to one screaming tabloid headline today: "Blitz on benefits: 887,000 fiddlers exposed". Echoing stories in many of this morning's papers, the Daily Express says that three-quarters of Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants are "workshy spongers feigning serious disability". Shocking, if true.
But it isn't true."


"The source for all this is the latest batch of data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on applications for Employment Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit introduced two-and-a-half years ago by the Labour government. Today's figures relate to the period between October 2008 and August 2010 - a time, for the most part of course, when Labour was in power.
The key point, though, it that these are new applicants - people applying to see if they might be eligible for additional financial support."

Mr. Easton goes on to explain the true facts behind the 'shock figures'; true facts which plainly show that those dubbed 'benefit scrounger's are in fact those with genuine disabilities who have been encouraged by the DWP to apply for benefit!

So, not the hate figures we are encouraged to despise by the Express and many of the other right-wing media outlets?

The Express article, Mr. Macer's exhortation to denigrate all new ESA applicants or those attempting to hang on to existing benefit, ends thus:
"Last week, David Cameron acknowledged the growing anger about the number of claimants receiving Incapacity Benefit because of obesity or addiction to alcohol or drugs. Official figures showed that over 81,000 people are on incapacity benefits because they are too fat to work or have drug or drink problems.

More than 20,000 with one of those three problems are among some 900,000 who have been “on the sick” for more than 10 years."

Just on the off chance his readers weren't sufficiently incensed by the disabled....!