It all adds up: Work and Pensions press officers sent on statistics course

Training follows complaints about figures published by Iain Duncan Smith's department

Telling lies or damned lies can often get politicians into trouble, but it is statistics that tend to land Iain Duncan Smith and his Department of Work and Pensions press office in hot water.

Although the communications team met the UK Statistics Authority and a senior DWP statistician earlier in the year, press officers are being dispatched on a statistics course this summer after a series of complaints concerning figures it has published.

Despite the barrage of criticism that has come its way, the DWP went on the defensive today over reports it had "quietly ditched" statistics used to collate the number of deaths of recipients of incapacity benefit, now known as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Disability campaigner Samuel Miller wrote to the department to see if it would be updating its July 2012 report entitled Incapacity Benefits: Deaths of Recipients, showing that 10,600 claimants died between January and November 2011.

The total was broken down based on the person's most recent Work Capability Assessment (WCA) result. The number of deaths of those whose assessment was not complete stood at 2,200. Those in the 'work related activity group', where individuals have limited capability for work, totalled 1,300 and there were 7,100 in the 'support group', where people receive unconditional benefit.

Mr Miller was told by the DWP's ESA analysis team that "there is no intention of releasing an updated version of these statistics" in a written reply. The Canadian-based campaigner said he was concerned mortality rates had risen since welfare reform and that the DWP "is resorting to petty obstructionism-even a full-fledged cover-up-because the mortality of the sick and disabled has become too politicised for the Tories to cope with."

He added: "I suspect that there has been a staggering increase in the number of benefit claimant deaths since November 2011."

Mr Miller said he was filing a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office.

A spokesman for the DWP said: "These figures were put together on an ad hoc basis last year and therefore there are no plans to update them. They've also been used in a very misleading way. The figures show the number of people who were claiming ESA but who then died with a recorded date of death.

"As the report says, data on the number of ESA claimants that have died following a fit-for-work decision is not available as we do not hold information on a death if the person has already left benefit."

Previous DWP 'ad hoc analysis' led to Mr Duncan Smith having his knuckles rapped. Andrew Dilnot, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, said in May that the work and pensions secretary's statement that 8,000 people who would have been affected by the benefits cap had moved into jobs was "unsupported by the official statistics published by the Department" in April.

Labour’s Glenda Jackson told the Independent the DWP’s use of statistics, spin and language has led her and a number of her cross-party colleagues on the work and pensions select committee to repeatedly ask officials for “greater clarity” on a number of issues.

She said: “The largest beneficiaries of benefits are pensioners yet the language that has often been deployed by the department and has taken hold in the country does not reflect that. There’s a very grey area with who is briefing and selling government political policy -  the press officers, the special advisers or the ministers - and a lot of that confusion comes down to the spin that is put on statistics. The situation is not improving.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick