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Ministers berated for massaging stats

DWP again accused over dodgy figures

THE statistics watchdog chided ministers for again distorting its figures yesterday over claims that more than 12,000 households had found work thanks to Tory attacks on welfare.

Trade unionists said the government had been caught “bang to rights” trying to make unsubstantiated claims.

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) found that while the figures for claimants moving into work and ceasing to receive housing benefit were accurate, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had failed to give evidence that this was a direct result of the £500-a-week benefit cap.

UKSA urged the DWP to “exercise caution” in future claims about the impact of its policies.

Director general for regulation Ed Humpherson said that “the available numerical evidence does not demonstrate a particularly strong causal link between the benefit cap and the decisions made by individuals about moving into work.”

While the figures were “consistent with some people moving into work because of the benefit cap,” they do not demonstrate “clear causality,” he said.

UKSA was also critical of a Treasury document setting out the increase in female employment in different economic sectors.

A bar chart produced by the Treasury showed a 23 per cent increase between 2010 and 2014 in the number of women working in agriculture and mining and a 14 per cent increase in manufacturing, both towering over a much smaller bar showing a 5 per cent rise in the service sector.

However, the 571,000 increase in jobs in the service sector — which employs many more women — was significantly larger than the 38,000 rise in agriculture and mining and 91,000 in manufacturing.

After investigating a TUC complaint, UKSA said the chart was not “fully satisfactory” and “although numerically correct, might mislead the non-expert reader.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This may be couched in the careful speech of Whitehall, but this is another severe rap on the knuckles for the government’s use of statistics.

“Both the DWP and the Treasury have been caught bang to rights making claims that do not stack up.

“Every time ministers are caught in this way it makes voters even more disillusioned with the political process. It is bad for government and bad for democracy.”


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