Last night the BBC ran a pitiful report which was little more than an advert for the welfare-to-work sector in which they begged the tax payer for yet more money.
The report was based on information from ERSA, the trade body whose job it is to lie on behalf of private sector poverty pimps like A4e and G4S. The sector is whinging that they aren’t given enough money to find people jobs through the floundering Work Programme and that only 10% of sick and disabled claimants have found a job via the scheme. Obviously, the industry claims this isn’t their fault.
Whilst it is shocking that the BBC should effectively provide a free lobbying service for a multi-billion pound industry, of equal concern should be the contempt shown once again for the role of official statistics by the DWP.
The figures used in the news report did not come from the DWP, whose role it is to provide statistics on the Work Programme. They were leaked by the shabby cowboys in the welfare-to-work sector in a crude attempt to influence public opinion with unchecked, unverified and very much unofficial statistics.
The truth is that these numbers are not really relevant to the performance of the Work Programnme. The key measure of success is whether people are finding long term work on the scheme – and the DWP are dragging their feet on telling us whether that is the case.
With a range of benefit sanctions at their disposal, it is not difficult for the welfare-to-work sector to bully someone off benefits to take up a week’s temporary work. But this means very little if they are back on benefits a fortnight later. And, astonishingly, even if these statistics are accurate, then the job entry rates they are achieving are atrocious. With long term unemployment soaring ever since the Work Programme began, it appears that even those finding work through the scheme are quickly replaced in the dole queue by someone else becoming long term unemployed.
Given the welfare-to-work sector are using these figures to beg for more money you might have expected the DWP to be at least a little bit pissed off that they are leaking unverified statistics to the media. As the tweets above reveal, this is far from the case. The DWP are using this industry information in a desperate attempt to mislead the public into thinking that the Work Programme is a roaring success.
The Code of Practice for Official Statistics is clear (PDF). It is the DWP’s job to: “Issue statistical reports separately from any other statement or comment about the figures and ensure that no statement or comment – based on prior knowledge – is issued to the press or published ahead of the publication of the statistics.”
Now the DWP may be unable to control ERSA, who appear to have been given free rein to bang out any old statistics they can cook up in the hope of more cash. But they are responsible for their own twitter feed. The Department has repeatedly been rapped over their misuse of official statistics by the UK Statistics Authority. They don’t appear to have learnt a thing so don’t believe a word they say.
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