23 February 2013
What: DWP claimed its calculations showed that less than 11 per cent of those going through the WCA process should be found not fit for work and placed in the ESA support group (for those with the highest barriers to work). But research, including freedom of information requests by DPAC’s Anita Bellows, exposes that DWP had misunderstood its own data. She shows that the figure of 11 per cent had instead been a calculation of what proportion of claimants would be automatically placed in the support group without needing a face-to-face assessment. Ministers had used the erroneous figures to argue that one million fewer people would be on incapacity benefits by 2015. This figure also appeared in the 2016 green paper Improving Lives.
Why significant: DPAC says this provides “evidence of confusion and incompetence at several levels of the DWP, which goes right to the top of the department. Not only are DWP staff unable to differentiate between assumptions and statistics, but they are also wrongly interpreting their own figures.” It also raises concerns that Atos may have responded to the DWP target by ensuring fewer people were found eligible for the support group.