Government given dressing-down over ‘fitness to work’ figures by John Pring – Disability News Service

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

News provided by John Pring at

The government has been told by the UK’s official statistics watchdog to improve the way it publishes information about its controversial “fitness to work” assessments.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under sustained attack from campaigners and some MPs for fuelling disablist coverage of its incapacity benefit reforms in the media.

Last month, disabled activists criticised newspapers and the government over the “appalling” coverage of new statistics on claimants of out-of-work disability benefits.

Even though the figures showed the proportion of claimants found fit for work – and so ineligible for the new employment and support allowance (ESA) – was falling sharply, the Daily Express headlined its report with the words: “Sick benefits: 75 per cent are faking.”

The Daily Mail headlined its story: “Time’s up for the shirking classes: Just one in 14 incapacity claimants is unfit to work under new, tougher tests.”

The figures actually showed that, by February this year, nearly half of those who completed a work capability assessment (WCA) – which tests eligibility for ESA – were found to be entitled to claim the benefit.

Critics believe the government’s presentation of these and earlier figures has encouraged some tabloids to run stories that accuse disabled people of being “scroungers” and “shirkers”.

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