Do a quarter of sickness benefits claimants have a criminal record?

“It is certainly not clear that the incidence of criminality is higher among benefit claimants than it is elsewhere, and it may in fact be lower” ~ Full Fact

Not only is The Daily Heil’s “official analysis [released] yesterday” non-existent and actually based on figures put out at the end of last year – the statistics, as usual, are grossly skewed to make out an argument which is utterly false and defamatory.

No great surprises there, then. The Heil seems to be determined to live up to its reputation as a modern-day Neues Volk and to take the maxim ‘you can’t believe everything you read in the papers’ to ever-greater extremes – ‘Can you believe ANYTHING you read in The Heil?‘ would arguably be a far more apposite statement these days – at least in as far as its reporting surrounding sickness and disability issues is concerned.  

This deliberate and wanton demonisation of sick and/or disabled claimants is part of the ongoing campaign to defame them in the estimation of the general public, so as to trick the population into acquiescing in ConDem plans to systematically deprive disabled people of their fundamental human right to life, with dignity.

We are to be sacrificed the neoliberal altar of cuts and austerity for the poor – and ever-increasing private profit, privatisation and engorgement for the 1%.

Black Triangle has submitted a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission – that toothless and completely unreliable paper tiger so utterly unfit for purpose and incapable of fulfilling its role – and have copied the complaint to the Leveson Inquiry, for good measure. 

~ Black Triangle Campaign

 
23 July, 2012 – 16:32 — Jamie Thunder
 
Are one in four incapacity benefits claimants too sick to work, but fit enough for a life of crime, as the Daily Mail suggests?
 

“Almost one in four people claiming sickness benefit have criminal records, an official analysis showed yesterday…

“The findings from a Government research project show a high proportion of claimants who claim they are unfit for work appear to be fit enough to commit crime.”

Daily Mail, 20 July 2012 

Are a quarter of people claiming ‘sickness’ benefits fit enough to commit crime?

That was the claim that emerged in the Daily Mail this Saturday, citing an “official analysis [released] yesterday” as proof.

Confusingly, no such story appeared on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website on Friday. However  several suspiciously similar stories about benefit claimants did appear at the end of last year: The Mail, the Star, the Express, and the Telegraph all reported the findings of joint research by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and DWP into the link between benefit claimants and criminality, while Employment Minister Chris Grayling gave a similar quote to that in Saturday’s Mail.

A quick call to the DWP press office confirmed that these were the figures in question, with the Mail seemingly mixing up its timings.

So dating aside, do the claims stack up?

Analysis

The ‘Offending, employment and benefits – emerging findings from the data linkage project’ report combines HMRC data on individuals’ employment status, DWP data on benefits claims, and MoJ data on sentencing.

This makes it possible to trace the employment and benefit history of individuals who have been cautioned for or convicted of offences. In total, 3.6 million people who received a caution or conviction in England and Wales between 2000 and 2010 and have a benefit and/or employment record during the time are included.

Table 1.4 of the report shows that of the 1.6 million people receiving Incapacity Benefit on December 1 2010, 21 per cent had received a caution or conviction in the previous 10 years, as the Mail reported.

The same table shows that 28 per cent of Employment Support Allowance recipients (ESA is replacing Incapacity Benefit) have a criminal record, although these figures can’t be added together.

The Mail’s headline that a “quarter of those claiming sickness benefits have a criminal record” is broadly accurate, with slightly fewer than one in four IB claimants having criminal records and slightly more than one in four ESA claimants having likewise.

But what about the suggestion that these people are claiming to be too ill to work while being fit enough to commit crime?

Here it gets trickier. Someone could have been convicted of an offence in 2001 and legitimately claimed incapacity benefit in 2007, but they would show up as an IB recipient with a criminal record even though the criminality occurred several years before the person started claiming benefits.

A better way to measure this might be to look at whether offenders were claiming benefits near to the time of their sentencing.

Table 2.1 shows that 13 per cent of people sentenced claimed incapacity benefits – a wider category that includes Incapacity Benefit, Passported Incapacity Benefit, and Severe Disablement Allowance – in the month before they were sentenced:

This is still subject to caveats. The report’s methodology notes that not everyone recorded as being on a benefit will necessarily be receiving it:

“An individual can be recorded as having a spell on a benefit and usually that will mean that the individual is in receipt of a benefit payment. However, there are exceptions to this, particularly for individuals claiming Incapacity Benefit or Disability Living Allowance. An individual can be recorded as being on a particular benefit but they are not in receipt of payment as they do not meet the full conditions at that particular time.”

There can also be a long period between an offence being committed and sentencing, which could underestimate numbers on benefits:

“For a number of reasons, it is possible for offenders to be convicted (found guilty) and for there to be a delay between the conviction and sentence date. In these instances, it is possible that benefits are stopped or P45 employment spells are ended as soon as the offender is convicted. Therefore this analysis may underestimate the proportion of offenders who are claiming benefits or in P45 employment, and care should be taken when interpreting the findings.”

Nevertheless, this looks like the best available measure of how many people claiming sickness benefits commit crime: 13 per cent, or one in eight. However it’s also worth pointing out that being able to commit a crime does not necessarily mean someone is fit to work. Certain crimes, such as drug possession, could be committed by incapacitated and ‘fit’ offenders alike.

How significant this figure is can be disputed. As others have pointed out, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) has claimed that a quarter of the general population have a criminal record.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find data on the proportion of the general population with criminal records that might support this claim.

An answer to a Parliamentary Question in 2008 points to research from 2001 which followed the fortunes of groups of people born between 1953 and 1978. By 2001, 33 per cent of male subjects born in 1953 had convictions, as did 9 per cent of women – although it doesn’t give an overall percentage. The most recent cohort, however, seems to be picking up convictions rather slower than the others, as the chart below shows:


These figures don’t include cautions, however, making it difficult to compare to the DWP research – a task made harder by the fact that the DWP’s study only looked at a decade.

Nevertheless, it is certainly not clear that the incidence of criminality is higher among benefit claimants than it is elsewhere, and it may in fact be lower.

Conclusion

The Mail is correct in stating that 21 per cent of incapacity benefit claimants committed an offence of some sort between 2000 and 2010.

However, it’s on shakier ground in saying these people “claim to be unfit for work [but] appear to be fit enough to commit crime”, as only 13 per cent of offenders claimed a sickness benefit in the month before they were sentenced.

It’s also dubious as to whether these are “truly alarming” figures as the article claims, and when compared to the best information we have on the prevalence of criminal records in the general population, the claim seems less striking.

Full Fact

Comments
  • Anita Bellows July 23, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    This is the complaint I sent today to the Press Complaints Commission :
    I want to complain about this Daily Mail article which quotes figures and statements from a Minister without checking whether they were right.
    The title and the basis of the article rests on this study : http://statistics.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2011/offending_employment_and_benefits.pdf
    Checking this study, it is obvious that in his statement the Minister used very selective figures, namely the number of people on Incapacity Benefit which attract the highest percentage of people having a criminal record.
    But the title of the article refers to people “claiming sickness benefits” which encompasses a lot more than people claiming Incapacity Benefit, but also people receiving Disability Living Allowance, Severe Disability Allowance, Passported Disability Allowance, and Attendance Allowance.
    The number of the people claiming sickness benefits amounts to 6467,000 when they are added (IB+DLA+SDA+PIB+AA)
    The number of claims by offenders (for the same categories) amounts to 643,000 when they are added. So the percentage of people claiming sickness benefit who have a criminal record is 9.942% and not almo st 25% like Chris Grayling and the Daily Mail would like us to believe.

    This happened in the context of increased attacks against disabled people, linked to negative portrayal in the press. A newspaper has a duty to check its facts, especially when they are provided by the government in order it does not become a mouthpiece for governmental propaganda. The title of the article was misleading and inaccurate, and will perpetuate the situation in which more and more disabled people are viewed as scroungers and physically attacked.

    Clauses : I believe 2 clauses have been breached
    1) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    2) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

    • kasbah July 24, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Great stuff Anita. Please will you post on what the response is?

  • Anita Bellows July 23, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I must add that having checked today, it is estimated that between 25 to 30% of the UK British population at large have a criminal record.

  • Adam Lotun July 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Comments and Speculations like this just get my goat…Just how many people know someone who now have Court Orders against them as a result of the WORLD FINANCIAL MELTDOWN? Most of the UK now has a Criminal Record for failure to meet loan, credit card, mortgage payments et al these days. Making such generalisations to further smear a group of individuals who have already been called scroungers, fraudsters and the pariah of today’s Society is just a weak argument to be made by those who are supposed to be some of the most highly educated amongst us all…and they wonder why we call them the 1%! Adam.

  • Brian F Kirkham July 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Sorry All – It’s my opinion that dear old Mr Cameron and those in his coalition of the same thought (IDS, Willets and all) are letting the right wing press do the “Hearts Thoughts and Minds” thing that they know won’t work if they try it themselves. I just look at the aims of IDS original Vision of what he set out to do – Save Money. Now, let me just look in my Crystal Ball – Fog is clearing – Ah yes – ATOS get paid to do Assessment – Do the Assessment on a VERY dubious Criteria – And get the disabled person back on the Jobseeker Budget (lower rates you see) – OOH…What’s this ? An Appeal? … and this time the Assessor finds in favor of the Applicant – Trousering a second payment in the process. Mr Cameron also sees this vision – but realises it’s his engineered situation – its him, Willy, Gideon, and IDS in the boat together – and the water isn’t in his favour – its decidedly choppy. So, he fires up a distress flare to the Daily Mail, Times and Telegraph – where he has his faithful rescue crews. This Farce makes the squabbles on the Olympics look exceedly Minor!

    • JJ July 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      Agreed, Brian! Fully endorse your analysis! That’s their pathetic and counter-productive ‘strategy’!

      They are so out-of-touch with reality and truth they cannot see that millions – if not quite yet the majority – are wisening up to their complete and utter BULLSHIT and blatant propaganda.

  • Joanna Terry July 24, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Good luck Anita, maybe we could organise a fund raiser so that we could take these extremists to court, it would not do any harm to highlight to the general population that we will not tolerate discrimination or the drip, drip of hate on a daily basis from our so called “free” press. Lets also put pressure on our MP’s to let them know we will not continually sit back and “fester” whilst £13 trillion lies around in tax havens gathering even more zero’s by the hour, whilst these hate speech mongers cause mental and physical damage using the ignorant public as proxy thugs.

  • sue mccafferty July 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I agree Joanna, something must be done. Wasn’t there a letter that was meant to be being published that had been signed by a lot of campaigners etc? What happened to it? I’m sure we could organise another one; or get the funds to take out an ad, signed by a lot of the more supprtive MPs , journalists, BMA, housing providers, spartacus, etc to the effect that the current climate of hate and vilification will not be tolerated any longer. Anybody know how to get it going?

  • Adam Lotun July 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Anything I can do to help as a Disability Risk Management & Reasonable Adjustments Consultant, just holler, I am known to Black Triangle and DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts…

  • Adam Lotun July 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    A letter was handed in at the Paupers Picnic On The Commons and we were assured that it would be made known to the office of David Cameron…this commitment was made in the presence of John Pring of The Disability News Service, who is also following this letter and will carry on with the response received…

  • sian healey July 24, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    problem is we get a fund, take them to court – and no media news in the country tells the story – alot of media news take their lead from the BBC, and the BBC are in both the Gov. and ATOS’ pockets (ATOS run all the computers at the BBC) and the gov. says – report what we say or we’ll abolish the T.V. licence – it is all completely corrupt our only chance to win is to do what happened in iceland – but no-one seems willing to take the first step (or roll, or stagger – if thats all you can manage)

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