A minister has been accused of trying to cover up an embarrassing fall in the number of disabled people in work, after he issued a misleading press release about the government’s “jobs miracle”.
Mark Harper, the Conservative minister for disabled people, announced that there had been an increase in the number of disabled people in work of more than 141,000 in the last year.
But he failed to point out that the number of disabled people in work actually fell in the latest quarter by 26,000.
The figures – the last quarterly statistics released by the Office for National Statistics before May’s general election – were used by Harper as “further evidence of the UK’s jobs miracle”.
But although there were more disabled people in work in October-December 2014, compared with October-December 2013, the number fell sharply from July-September 2014 to October-December 2014.
The figures also show that the number of disabled people who were economically active fell in the last quarter of 2014, while the number who were economically inactive rose in the last quarter and over the year as a whole.
Harper said in the Department for Work and Pensions press release: “These figures demonstrate how the UK jobs miracle is benefiting everybody in Britain and it is fantastic that there are now an additional 141,000 disabled people in work since this time last year.”
A DWP spokesman told Disability News Service: “Due to seasonal employment patterns and other factors, it is inevitable that there will be fluctuations in figures from quarter to quarter.
“There is nothing ‘misleading’ about making year-on-year statistical comparisons.”
It is not the first time DWP ministers have been accused of a misleading use of official statistics.
Tory DWP ministers Lord Freud, Mark Hoban, Esther McVey and Mike Penning have all faced accusations of misleading parliament after they tried to defend the coalition’s refusal to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of its welfare reforms and cuts.
Both McVey and work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith were accused in April 2013 of using misleading figures to try to whip up anger about the scale of spending on disability living allowance, in order to try to justify the coalition’s cuts and reforms.
McVey was also accused that year of misleading MPs about the impact on disabled people of the controversial “bedroom tax”.
She also used misleading statistics from an international report and the government’s own research in October 2013 to try to show that the coalition’s policies were not damaging inclusion and equality for disabled people.
And among other examples, both Lord Freud and McVey mistakenly claimed in 2013 that the UK spends “almost double” the OECD average on disabled people.