Have 200,000 disability claims been ‘thrown out’?
Today’s Sun proclaims that “200,000 disability claims have been thrown out”, along with what appears to be an exclusive quote from Mike Penning MP, Minister for Disabled People.
The story seems to come from this DWP statistical release on Personal Independence Payment Management Information. It shows that by December 220,300 standard PIP claims had been made, with an additional 9,400 claims being made under a set of special rules that have been put in place for those with terminal illnesses. That means 229,700 claims had been made in total by last December.
For those claims, over the same time period only 43,800 decisions had been made (of which 9,600 decisions were made under the special rules for those with terminal illnesses – with rounding apparently accounting for the fact that slightly more decisions had been made for this group than claims have been registered). This means that by December last year 34,200 decisions had been made for claims in the standard group. A range of reasons are given for relatively few decisions having been taken, including claimants not yet having received appointment dates, forms not having been completed, forms not having yet been received or claims being withdrawn.
Of the decisions, 50% have been approved overall which falls to 37% when those who were assessed under the terminal illness rules are excluded. This means that by December 2013 around 21,546 claims had been turned down (63% of 34,200). Presumably some of those decisions will go to appeal, so the rates may change in the future.
So how have the Sun have come up with 200,000 claims being ‘thrown out’? The release makes clear that only slightly above that number have even made a claim. Even if a 63% failure rate had been applied to the total number of standard claims made (which would be an incorrect method) the number would be well below 200,000.
The only possible explanation I can find is that the Sun have either been incorrectly briefed or have taken it upon themselves to multiply the number of rejected standard claims by ten. If this is the case, the headline is blatant misreporting, and appears to show how strongly certain sectors of society wish to misrepresent those who are claiming benefits. I very much hope that I am wrong, but fear that this may be another case of dodgy statistics.
Update: Twitter has provided another potential answer (thanks @StuartAstill and @jdportes). It appears that the analysis, published in the Sun, rests on deducting the total number of approved decisions on standard claims from the total number of standard claims made. This is not a valid calculation, as it involves deducting approved claims on which decisions have been made from all claims registered (most of which have not yet been subject to a decision making process). If decisions had been made on 220,300 claims, and if only 12,654 had been approved, the headline would be correct. But in that case 95% of all standard applications for PIP would be being turned down, which is not the case.