MPs criticise ‘spin’ against benefit claimants

A report by MPs has criticised the Department for Work and Pensions for a series of cases in which official statistics were used to 'spin' stories about benefit claimants, thereby encouraging 'negative preconceptions and prejudices'.

Key points

  • 2013 saw 'heightened and quite widespread concern' – including from the UK Statistics Authority and organisations representing disabled people – about the DWP commentary accompanying press releases of benefits statistics.
  • Work to promote a positive image of disabled people risks being undermined if the language used in DWP press releases feeds into negative preconceptions and prejudices about people on benefits, including disabled people.
  • Government statistics should be presented in a way that is fair, accurate and 'unspun'. The DWP should avoid feeding into negative public views about people who receive benefits. Statistics should be used objectively to shed light on policy implementation, not to 'prop up established views and preconceptions'.
  • The MPs call on the DWP to set out specific steps designed to ensure statistics are released in a way that is accurate, and fair to benefit claimants.

The MPs also criticise the DWP for shortcomings in the management of claims for the new personal independence payments (PIP), a disability benefit that replaces the disability living allowance. They say it is 'unacceptable' that claimants are having to wait six months or more to find out if they are eligible.

SourceMonitoring the Performance of the Department for Work and Pensions in 2012-13, Third Report (Session 2013–14), HC 1153, House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, TSO
LinksReport | Committee press release | BBC report | Guardian report | Public Finance report

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Publication date: 
Mar 18 2014