Is the benefit cap encouraging people into work?
Is the benefit cap encouraging people into work? ‘Officials’ at the DWP think so, having told the Press Association on Friday afternoon that as a result of the impending cap 8,000 people have found jobs while others have moved to cheaper properties. The Secretary of State agrees and is glad that ‘…even before the cap comes in we are seeing thousands of people seeking help and moving off benefits’.
These latest claims appear to derive from this ad hoc analysis (identified by Declan Gaffney) which sets out why official estimates of the number of households who will be affected by the cap have been revised down. Its findings directly contradict the assertions the Department has made to PA. It turns out that changes in eligibility for the cap, normal claimant flows and reductions in the generosity of benefits as a result of uprating are responsible for the lower numbers, and that ‘behavioural change’ is definitely not driving the trend. While it might be politically convenient to claim that the benefit cap is incentivising work, the facts don’t back this up.
This is the latest in a long line of recent DWP misprepresentations, which all stem from the problem that the evidence doesn’t appear to fit with what the Secretary of State believes. But not content with ignoring the facts when formulating his policies, it now appears that he is also happy to disregard them when reporting on their impacts. Meanwhile, in the real world, thousands of families prepare to lose their homes, children will be taken out of school, bed and breakfast crisis housing booms and more than five jobseekers continue to chase every post. It’s a shame that the Secretary of State can’t spend as much time tackling our jobs crisis as he does fiddling the statistics.
It appears that the statistical spin is more complex than we originally thought. DWP have produced another ad hoc analysis (which is being disseminated via the press office, but is not currently available under the ‘ad hoc analysis’ section of the DWP website). This analysis claims that since claimants have been notified of the cap 8,000 people who could potentially have been capped have been helped into work by Jobcentre Plus. This is not a surprise. Every month thousands of people move off JSA and thousands more move on (for example in February 287,500 people moved onto JSA and 292,000 moved off). In addition, the ad hoc analysis itself says: “The figures for those claimants moving into work cover all of those who were identified as potentially being affected by the benefit cap who entered work. It is not intended to show the additional numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact.” This makes clear that even among this 8,000 the cap and the JCP contact cannot be seen to have been drivers of change.
The 8,000 figure is also completely unrelated to the 16,000 fall identified in the estimated eligible population in the earlier ad hoc analysis, which comes from a different source. ‘Officials’ who implied to PA that the two analyses could be equated and the the 8,000 people who have moved off JSA are responsible for half of the 16,000 fall in the estimated eligible population are wrong. 8,000 people may have moved into work since the cap was announced. And as likely 8,000 people have moved out of work and are eligible to be capped. What we do know for certain is that the fall in the overall population of people who are currently estimated to be subject to the cap is nothing to do with JCP, as that analysis includes ‘no behavioural effects’ and can be accounted for, as set out above, by policy and modelling amendments.