What’s the real benefits scandal?
I wonder if the DWP is starting to regret publishing their benefit fraud figures on a monthly basis? Certainly there’s precious little publicity for the latest release. Visit the newsroom on the DWP website and you’ll find there’there’s been no press release – though there was one on Friday to fanfare their “benefit fraud blitz” (I wonder how The Sweet would have coped with that title).
I suppose one reason is that the numbers are so similar to last month’s. Another is that the level of fraud hardly justifies the blitzkreig: the Department’s best estimate is that, in 2010/11, 0.8% of total benefit expenditure across all benefits was lost to fraud.
As it happens, though, there are genuinely shocking data that went on to the DWP website today. And that’s the details of the payments made for Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance. In November 2010, the average weekly payment to someone receiving Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance was £96.64.
That is bad enough, you may think. But there has been the most enormous fuss about “over-generous” disability benefits recently and the government is moving people off as quickly as it can, and transferring them to Employment and Support Allowance.
One reason for this is that it’s harder to get ESA, so a lot of people will stop getting any disability benefit at all. But these figures reveal another reason: in November 2010, the average weekly payment to someone getting ESA was £81.71 – £15 a week less.
So there you are. One day, one website: the issue the media and government want you to be up in arms about isn’t really much of a story, but there is a scandal there – it’s just that no one mentions it.