Political parties, especially the Tories, have a morbid fascination with polls. They see the polls and the companies that produce them as some sort of Delphic Oracle. What interests me isn’t the Tory fascination with polling companies but their involvement in them, since polling companies are always at pains to tell the general public that they are politically neutral. Yet, as any qualitative researcher will tell you, it is not possible to be 100% objective and put one’s ideology or cultural baggage to one side. The researcher must act self-reflexively. Bourdieu and Wacquant discussed this at some length in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. The researcher must consider their own position. Yet this idea of self-reflexivity appears to have escaped the pollsters. I have discovered that a number of Tory MPs are being paid by polling companies and there is no indication why they are being paid.
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The fantastic Full Fact charity have until 27 February to raise £25,000 to fund a six week, 18 hours per day election fact-checking project.
The work of Full Fact is particularly vital in the run-up to the election.
According to the Institute for Financial Studies (IFS), working age benefits will have to be cut by a horrifying 25% in order for the Tories to meet their spending plans.
When and if the conservatives set out how these massive cuts are to be made, we can expect a blizzard of anti-claimant propaganda from the DWP in an effort to make the cuts as appealing as possible to the
The presence of a Full Fact team will make it harder for the DWP press office to put out blatant untruths without them being challenged and exposed.
Full Fact have recruited a team of specialist fact checking volunteers, including staff on secondment from the Office for National Statistics and from Ipsos Mori.
Funding is needed to cover start-up costs including reliable computers and fast internet as well as travel and other running costs.
If you are able, please make a donation of £2 or more towards the Full Fact election hub. The team are already well over halfway to their goal of £25,000 in less than two weeks
Whether you are able to donate or not, you can also make a difference by tweeting, blogging and emailing details of their fundraising campaign as widely as possible.
The link for the Crowdfunder campaign is:
Source – Benefits & Work, 11 Feb 2015
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has accused the coalition government of over-emphasising benefit fraud in a report on fraud and error in the benefits system.
According to official statistics included in the report, of the total £5.1 billion of ‘incorrectly’ paid benefits, £1.6 billion was underpaid and £3.5 billion overpaid.
The amount lost to claimant fraud represents just 0.7% of the entire 2012/13 benefits expenditure and the figure has remained relatively constant for several years.
The report says that “there is a large disparity between the official estimate of benefit fraud and the public perception”.
> Something that neither the DWP or the media has gone out of its way to emphasis. Quite the opposite, in fact…
A survey by Ipsos Mori in 2013 found that the general public believed that 24% of all benefits were claimed fraudulently, 34 times greater than the official 0.7% estimate.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee, which consists of MPs from all the main political parties, say that the government’s approach to tackling fraud and error in the benefits system “appeared to place emphasis on addressing fraud”.
Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud and David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, “appeared to place emphasis on addressing fraud” in a strategy document announced in 2010. They highlighted the government’s intention to:
- Employ private sector firms on a payment by results basis, where appropriate, to ensure the full adoption of cutting-edge private sector fraud prevention techniques;
- Redirect resource to the front line to prevent fraud and error from entering the system in the first place, through enhanced checks and tougher sanctions for those even attempting to defraud;
- Ensure that anti-fraud activity is protected from cuts, including through the recruitment of over 200 new anti-fraud officers to sanction a further 10,000 fraudsters every year;
- Remove the current silo-based approach to tackling fraud, by creating new integrated cross-departmental data-matching and fraud investigation services (see Single Fraud Investigation Service, chapter 4);
- Introduce a system for rewarding members of the public who provide information that results in significant recovery of public funds;
- Respond to the growing threat of organised fraud through a new Identity Fraud Unit and far tougher sanctions for those involved;
- Introduce a new mobile regional fraud taskforce to investigate each and every claim in high fraud areas, to increase the certainty of detection;
- Address the weakness of the current penalty regime by abolishing cautions as a penalty for fraud, increasing asset seizures, and introducing far tougher one-strike and two-strike penalties, and a new three-strike rule;
- Clean up nearly 2 million claims to remove error; and
- Increase the frontline support provided by “Big Society partners” to help educate and support customers to get it right first time.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee say that of these measures, “seven focus solely on benefit fraud, one is aimed at fraud and error generally, and only two appear to be specifically designed to combat error”.
> That’s because their starting point is believing that anyone claiming benefit must be doing something illeagal. I mean, its what those poor people do, isn’t it ?
Benefit fraud and error is extremely complex with many different causes and ‘risk factors’. Analysis by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that the incorrect reporting of income accounts for 47% of all benefit overpayments.
Claims made by a single person when they are living with a partner accounts for 13% of all overpayments, whilst claims made by people living ‘abroad or untraceable’ represent 11% of benefit overpayments.
The incorrect disclosure of savings accounts for 8% of all benefit overpayments, according to official statistics.
The report says that the over-reliance on claimants to report changes in their circumstances to different parts of the DWP, HMRC, local authorities and other official bodies, means that they “aren’t always aware who needs to be told what information, and when”.
Criticising the government’s over-emphasis on benefit fraud, the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that:
“Whilst we understand that making a distinction between claimant error and fraud is not always straightforward, we believe that DWP could be clearer about the official estimated level of benefit fraud.
> They certainly could be clearer – but that wouldn’t suit the Government’s agenda.
“We therefore recommend that DWP publish, on separate days, discrete statistical summaries of its estimated rates of a) fraud and b) official and claimant error in the benefits system, alongside its more detailed report, to reduce the risk of confusion or conflation of these statistics in media reporting and public perceptions about benefit fraud, and to emphasise the importance of actions to reduce error as well as fraud.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 19 June 2014
Voters in the North believe the economy is getting better despite continuing high levels of unemployment, according to the latest opinion polls.
The outlook is bright, with 50% of voters in the North of England believing the general economic condition of the country will improve over the next 12 months and just 23% predicting it will get worse.
> Really ? 50% of ALL voters ? Because no-one asked me, for a start.
In reality they’ll have asked around a thousand people and just assume everybody thinks the same. That’s why these kind of sweeping statements are useless. However…
But the survey, by leading pollsters Ipsos Mori, also suggests that optimism about the state of the economy isn’t leading to a surge in support for the Government parties – with the Liberal Democrats slipping into fifth place behind UKIP and the Green Party.
Currently, 12% of voters in the region say they plan to back the anti-EU party led by Nigel Farage in next year’s General Election.
Another 8% say they will vote green and just 7% plan to back the Liberal Democrats.
Labour is in the lead with 39% of the vote while 34% say they will back the Conservatives.
Voters are optimistic about the future despite stubbornly high unemployment in the North East, with latest figures showing it is the only region where unemployment is still rising.
> Obviously they didn’t ask anyone who is unemployed !
The number of unemployed people in the region rose by 5,000 over the past three months to 135,000 people, an unemployment rate of 10.1%.
However, the number of people in work also rose by 30,000 over three months. The number of “economically inactive” people in the region, who are neither in work nor looking for work, fell by 31,000 over three months.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 16 May 2014
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 14th April 2014
There has been a 60% spike in the number of people seeking advice about paying bills as a result of increases in the length of benefit sanctions, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
A year after the limits were introduced, Ipsos Mori research found a third of people affected have been forced to cut back on essential items. Around 25% have looked for a job after being hit by the cap, while 45% plan to do so in future. The survey looked at 1,000 people out of more than 38,600 households that have been caught by the new rules.
The government extended the period Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is withheld from one week to four weeks last October. There have been repeated reports that JSA claimants feel they have suddenly lost benefit on the basis of arbitrary decisions for which they have been given no warning or little explanation.
An independent review of the sanctions regime commissioned by DWP is yet to be published, but the latest CAB figures suggest there is an urgency to the issue that ministers have yet to grasp. Polls suggest the DWP would feel under little pressure to soften any aspect of the welfare regime.
The CAB – which is a free advice service – said that since the sanctions regime was toughened, it has helped clients with over 15,000 JSA sanction problems. The increase in the numbers seeking help is disproportionate to the increase in the number of sanctions being applied by the DWP.
Under the previous one-week sanction claimants could cope, the CAB said, but a four-week withdrawal of access to benefit led people into desperate measures including approaching loan sharks.
Publishing its research, the CAB said: “People are struggling to pay their bills, rent and put food on the table. Many clients are forced to turn to food banks and even payday loan companies. With all this on their plate people are distracted from looking for a job, so they’re less likely to get into work.”
The CAB said: “From October to December last year one in four Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children, one in four identified as being disabled or suffering from a long-term health condition, one in six also had a debt problem, and one in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness.”
The chief executive of CAB, Gillian Guy, said: “The minimum four-week sanction is setting people up to fail and creating a barrier which can stop them from looking for work. Four weeks is a long time to go without money to get by and people are struggling to make ends meet.
“The success rate of sanction appeals reveals a culture of ‘sanction first and ask questions later’. This is not only ineffective and a huge waste of money but also has a devastating effect on thousands of people’s lives.
“People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and, where necessary, apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment.
“To date, work programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have successfully helped people find work. Combined with CAB’s latest figures this paints the strongest picture yet that the system is not working as it should.”
CAB pointed out that under universal credit – the new benefit integrating many existing benefits including JSA – Jobcentre staff are to be given greater flexibility in deciding the length of benefits. The CAB asked how it was possible to give staff flexibility for the incoming benefit system, but not for the current one.
Ian is a 43-year-old single father of two (aged nine and 12) living in Hastings. He has been on long-term sick leave for depression but, following a work capability assessment by Atos, was told he did not have enough points and was moved onto JSA.
Ian was put on to the work programme, though due to a staff mix-up by Pertemps he has not been receiving support to find work. He has been filling in his work-search forms and giving them to the Jobcentre. Then last Thursday Ian was told he had been given a four-week sanction for not giving enough work-search detail. He was told there were six cleaning jobs for which he could have applied, but he said that they were early morning jobs that did not fit with his responsibilities to his children.
He was given no notice or warning that he was doing anything inadequate about his work search. The money – £72 a week – just didn’t appear.
“I’ve been left high and dry. I filled in the work-search form as usual, but this time they’ve said it’s not enough. Thursday/Friday I was at rock bottom, I was in a total state. I was just thinking, where am I going to get money from?
“I had a water bill due on Friday, but the direct debit bounced as no money had gone in. I’m worried about my rent, as I don’t know if my housing benefit will come in now I’ve been sanctioned. Then at 5pm on Friday I got a hardship payment through so I can look after my kids. The crux of the issue is that they should give you some warning or notice that they are going to deduct some money. Otherwise the only two options at the end of the day are to borrow money or commit a crime.”
He adds that he took out a £100 emergency loan that will require repayment of £160. Ian is appealing his sanction, as he has a letter from Pertemps stating he has not been getting the support he should have due to an administrative mix-up.
Source – Welfare News Service 14 April 2014