What with all the vicious media ranting and disapproving government pronouncements recently, you might be forgiven for thinking that almost every single person claiming state benefits of any kind in this country is actually on the fiddle – and thus getting away with ripping off the Treasury and the tax-paying public to the tune of billions and billions of pounds.
Let me repeat that: Not. True.
I’ve written before about how those on benefits, especially the sick and disabled, become an easy scapegoat for a government who are more concerned with feathering their own nests and protecting the interests of big business than looking after the most vulnerable in our society – and that the levels of fraudulent benefit claims are much, much lower than most people think they are.
This afternoon, I’ve been looking at the official Department for Work and Pensions report Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: 2010/11 Estimates (Great Britain), which was released last week and contains some very interesting statistics indeed; statistics that clearly demonstrate that the current spate of media and political poor-bashing and the demonisation of benefits claimants is based on a tissue of lies.
The report – and remember that these are official government DWP figures – shows that in the financial year 2010/11, benefit overpayments as a result of fraud were estimated to be a miniscule 0.8% of total benefit spending, a figure that translates to £1.2 billion.
That may sound like a lot, and it is, of course, money that could be put to better use, but, to put this figure in context, corporate and individual tax avoidance loses the country much more than that – something in the region of £95 billion every year, and they all seem to be allowed to get away with it…
Breaking the DWP fraud figures down further, some other interesting information emerges. Looking at the figures for disability benefits in particular, it becomes immediately obvious that those claiming them are about as far away as you can possibly get from being the organised gang of heartless fraudsters that the government and the media would like us to believe they are, as you can see from the details below:
- INCOME SUPPORT: 2.8% fraud level
- JOBSEEKER’S ALLOWANCE: 3.4% fraud level
- PENSION CREDIT: 1.6% fraud level
- HOUSING BENEFIT: 1.4% fraud level
- INCAPACITY BENEFIT: 0.3% fraud level
- DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE: 0.5% fraud level
- RETIREMENT PENSION: 0.0% fraud level
- CARER’S ALLOWANCE: 3.9% fraud level
- COUNCIL TAX BENEFIT: 1.3% fraud level
You’ll notice that not one of the commonly claimed benefits listed above has a fraud rate of even 4%, let alone the huge and ever-growing numbers of fraudsters that the media and government insist are lurking in every Jobcentre Plus around the country, ready to steal the taxpayers’ money from their collective wallets.
Considering that the lies told about benefit claimants by the media and government, particularly about those who are sick or disabled, are now causing violent swings in public opinion to such an extent that disabled people are increasingly being attacked and abused in the street, there are a lot of people in powerful and influential positions who should be feeling thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
But it seems they’re not.
Also considering that one of the government’s stated justifications for the Welfare Reform Bill was the prevention of (actually non-existent) high rates of benefit fraud, it becomes increasingly obvious to me that this government is just looking for excuses and scapegoats to detract from the fact that they are protecting the interests of the wealthiest corporations and individuals in society.
Deliberately ignoring and misrepresenting the facts is just too easy and too convenient when you’re a politician, it seems. And reinforcing prejudice among newspaper readers and television viewers by approvingly parroting the lies told by politicians makes for lazy journalism – and further evidence of the all too cosy relationship between the media and those with political power.
Despite being estimated figures, these DWP statistics clearly show that there is an enormous gulf between what the government insists is going on in benefit offices across the land and the reality of the situation on the ground. The fact that this enormous gulf has deliberately been fostered to benefit (no pun intended) the political system rather than the poorest and most vulnerable proves – yet again – that this government really doesn’t give a shit about the people of this country.
Hat-tip to False Economy for details and links.
If you want to read the DWP report in full, you can download a copy here (PDF file).