A few weeks ago after a discussion on FaceBook a fellow blogger Jayne Linney, and myself decided to write an Open Letter to Esther McVey Mp and the DWP about all the misinformation and quite frankly all the twisting of facts and figures that has been coming out of the DWP here is the result … The dead line has now passed and the letter is now closed to signatures although you can view… The letter has also be sent to  the Work and pensions select  committee, and we hope to send it to the Independent and the Guardian… we are hoping to add to those trying to highlight the damaging misinformation coming out of the DWP. The letter has been copied below but you need to follow the link to view the signatures and comments… Dxxx

                           PlEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO VIEW -> Open Letter to Esther McVey

Dear Ms McVey,

We the undersigned have been shocked and appalled at your and your fellow Ministers’ persistent misuse of facts and statistics relating to Disability Living Allowance (DLA). We ask that you make correct use of the raft of factual statistics and desist from twisting evidence. Your misrepresentation presumes some sort of illegal activity by DLA claimants; this is particularly disturbing when the DWP’s own figures for fraud of DLA is 0.5%.

Referring to claims you and Iain Duncan Smith have made about a ‘rush to claim DLA before the introduction of PIP Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and a former chief economist at the DWP, said:

‘it was part of a “consistent pattern” which threatened to undermine public confidence in official statistics.

“I think it is very unfortunate. These statistics are very important. Government analysts, economists and statisticians work very hard to produce them and they provide important information to the public,” he said.

“It is very important that ministers should not seek to misrepresent what those stats actually do or don’t show. That detracts from the public’s faith in the analysis produced by government statisticians.

“This is, I am afraid, a consistent pattern of trying to draw out of the statistics things which they simply don’t show.”’

No evidence for Iain Duncan Smith benefit cap claim, says research chief 13.04.13

Your persistence in stating that few face-to-face medicals and little or no additional medical evidence are required to obtain DLA, is untrue. The government’s own figures show that just 16% of awards relied on the form only and a mere 9% of DLA funding was spent on this basis.

Your claim that  DLA is awarded without a medical  is simply not true; many claimants have to undergo a face to face medical assessment as part of their application as the DWP website shows: Medical assessments- You might get a letter saying you need to attend an assessment to check your eligibility. Further, the DWP statistics report of November 2011 also clearly demonstrates medical examinations did form part of the assessment process for claims.

http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2011/dla_evidence_award_values_nov11.pdf Table 2:

Savi Hensman’s blog on the Ekklesia website also disproves your claims:

Government minister Esther McVey’s untrue claims about Disability Living Allowance

‘Disability Living Allowance is an “outdated benefit” for which “around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence,” stated UK minister for disabled people Esther McVey on the BBC and elsewhere this morning (8 April 2013).

This is completely untrue – the government’s own figures show that just 16 per cent of awards relied on the form only and a mere nine per cent of DLA funding was spent on this basis. McVey was trying to justify the controversial replacement of DLA by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) from today, to be paid to fewer people.’

Savitri Hensman Ekklesia

The latest figure you used in your BBC interview,  that 50% of of claims are awarded without additional medical evidence being sought, may in fact be due to medical evidence being provided by claimants enclosing medical evidence such as letters from consultants and GP’s with their form..

You also state that 71% would “stay on it for life” without further assessments, but there have been no lifetime awards for some time now, so your statement made on the BBC on 8th April 2013 is misleading. The new term ‘Indefinite Award’ requires claimants to undergo reassessment at any time at the whim of the DWP. Is it therefore the fault of the claimant if the DWP fail to exercise that power? You announced a few months ago that DWP would not be testing those with indefinite claims at all until after the next election, even though Indefinite awards make up nearly 70% of all DLA awards and the government claim over and over that it is this group who have been “left to languish”; despite this, you have decided to do nothing about it at all before 2015.

‘She also referred to the claim that, under DLA, 71 per cent of people get support for life without checks. This, again, is misleading. The figure refers to ‘indefinite’ awards, which means that their period may vary according to needs. Recall is possible if circumstances change. This is appropriate. There are many people who have permanent and unalterable disabilities. Moreover, while benefit may be awarded for a non-fixed period, that does not mean it is necessarily ‘for life’. The total number who still get DLA excludes those who have had it on fixed awards and now no longer get it.’

Savitri Hensman Ekklesia

You have persistently used figures for the percentage of all DLA claims which are indefinite (71%) to imply faults in the DLA award process, when you are surely aware that it is the percentage of new claims which result in an indefinite award which is the relevant figure: this figure for 2010 was 23%. Full Fact have made this point very clearly: ‘Since the awards that are given for a fixed period inevitably come to an end, the proportion of the stock of DLA claims that are indefinite is higher. This Culmulative effect accounts for the overall proportion’. It is quite misleading to use the figure for the total caseload to imply that most people receive an indefinite award.

In the press you have continued to indicate the reason for the change from DLA to PIP is the rapidly accelerating growth in the number of DLA claimants, from an initial 1.1million to 3.3million since 1992 and up by 35% in the last ten years, a figure we do not contest. However, we would like to examine the context of the 35% rise (2009-2012); the reform of DLA will only affect working age claimants, with children and Pensioners being exempt from the changes (for now). Moreover there has been significant growth in the working age population since 2002. Without taking account of population change, the increase in the working age DLA caseload from 2002 to 2012 was 24%. Controlling for population change it was 15% (the percentage increase in the rate of receipt) – a figure which actually fell between 2010 and 2012. Why then do you persist in using the wholly inaccurate 35% figure, if not only to make your claim seem more urgent?

Sue Marsh co-author of the Responsible Reform Report states:

“…the government have consistently misled the public over the

new benefit, claiming a 35% rise when Spartacus Report showed clearly that the rise is only 13% for the working age group who will be affected. Physical conditions have remained totally stable, whilst the 13% rise is almost all due to a rise in mental health conditions and learning disabilities, a trend seen worldwide, not just in the UK.”

Sue Marsh, Diary of a Benefits Scrounger.

This brings us to another disturbing trend of recent weeks; statements being made by yourself and Mr Iain Duncan Smith MP, which strongly suggest people are rushing to claim DLA in order to avoid the new harsher PIP assessment criteria…

“We’ve seen a rise in the run-up to PIP. And you know why?

They know PIP has a health check. They want to get in early,

get ahead of it. It’s a case of ‘get your claim in early’.” IDS 8/4/13

Hufffington Post

And you yourself have similarly claimed…

The Mail on Sunday this week reported that McVey believed coalition plans to abolish working-age DLA had led to a huge increase in applications by people desperate to claim the benefit before it was replaced by the new personal independence payment (PIP), which will come with a tougher assessment.

The Mail on Sunday article – based on an interview with McVey – stated: “The decision to introduce new tests has produced an extraordinary ‘closing-down sale’ effect, with rocketing claims as people rush to get their hands on unchecked ‘welfare for life’ before McVey’s axe falls on April 8.”

A spokeswoman for McVey told Disability News Service (DNS) that, although she did not use the phrases “closing-down sale” or “welfare for life”, “everything in the article was a fair representation” of the interview.”

John Pring DNS

We have a number of  issues with these statements, not least of which is the fact that no one can escape the changeover to PIP; every single DLA claimant, whether they have been on it for many years or for five days will have to reapply for PIP in the next few years, so no-one will be able to ‘get ahead’ of it and any ‘last minute’ claim for DLA would simply delay the inevitable. Ergo the suggestions in your statements that recent claims are an attempt to escape PIP appear convoluted and without foundation.  Our assertion is further supported by Declan Gaffney and Jonathan Portes, in an article in the Guardian 15th April 2013 which states:

So what happens if we look at new claims, or indeed the total caseload, for those (between 16 and 64) who will be actually affected by the change? In fact, both fell, in both regions, between those two dates. These falls – well within the normal quarterly variation – tell us little, except to show conclusively that Duncan Smith’s statements are supported by no evidence that he has offered whatsoever.

Declan Gaffney also states in another article on Tuesday, 9th April 2013, analysed statistics produced at https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/ which appear to refute these statements.

“I presume Mr Duncan Smith has some basis for this claim, but it’s not supported by the published data on DLA. The changes only affect people of working age, so I’ve charted the number of claims by people age 16-64 with a duration of three months or less, using the data available on Nomis. A sudden increase in people claiming should show up in these figures: I don’t see it. On the contrary, the latest figures are the lowest on record.”

Given our concerns outlined above we request that you officially retract your recent comments with regard to DLA and PIP and issue a fairer balanced statement, based upon accurate data and one which maintains the integrity of Ministers in Government. We request you include the facts that PIP only applies to working age DLA claimants; that there was an increase of only 15% in overall working age claimants, from 2002 to 2012, entirely driven by an increase in claims related to mental health and learning difficulties, that the overwhelming majority of new awards (77%) are fixed term and are based on more than the evidence included in the application form (86%), that there has been no significant rush to apply for DLA whatsoever and that the rate of DLA receipt for people of working age has actually fallen.