DWP silent over Access to Work lies


newslatestThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has refused to explain why it lied about its use of figures that downplay the economic benefits of the Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

Disability News Service (DNS) reported last week that senior civil servants were claiming that for every £1 spent on the scheme, the Treasury receives only £1.18 back in taxes and lower benefits.

But DWP denied last week that it was using this number, and insisted that it still recognised long-standing figures that show that the Treasury receives £1.48 for every £1 spent on AtW.

It insisted that while it was carrying out work to update the £1.48 figure it was “not using or quoting any alternative figure”.

The figures are important because disabled campaigners fear the government could be looking for excuses not to expand spending on AtW, or could even be planning to make cuts.

DWP has already refused – in response to a Freedom of Information Act request – to say whether the £1.18 figure is being used internally by DWP or how it was calculated.

But this week, DNS confronted DWP with evidence that two of its senior civil servants – Helen John and Rilesh Jadeja – had been using the £1.18 figure.

John, a DWP deputy director, used it in a speech at a seminar, and Jadeja, head of AtW delivery, stated in a meeting on 16 April that DWP was now using the £1.18 figure internally.

Despite this evidence, the DWP spokeswoman said: “DWP has not formally published or announced any figures regarding Access to Work’s return to the Exchequer. We are looking at estimating the figure but it is still in development.”

When DNS asked why John and Jadeja had been using the £1.18 figure, the DWP spokeswoman said: “We still assert that DWP has not formally published or announced any figures regarding Access to Work’s return to the Exchequer.

“Any reference to a specific figure made by an official to a stakeholder does not represent a formal announcement or a final conclusion and should not be taken as such.”

The £1.48 figure only refers to immediate savings through higher taxes paid and fewer benefits claimed, and doesn’t include the wider economic benefits of AtW, such as reduced hospital admissions and lower use of other health services.

26 June 2014