If government departments do questionable things with statistics you can complain to the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) and its chair Sir Andrew Dilnot.{jcomments on}

Sometimes people complain about the use of a statistic and sometimes the UKSA undertakes its own investigations. It then writes letters with its conclusions, which are published on its website.

Anthony Reuben has been investigating the numbers relating to the DWP’s use of statistics and has written a blog on the BBC News website.

He says that since the last General Election in 2010 there have been 48 such letters, and 17 of those have been about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Going back to 2008 it's 17 out of 60.

Putting it into context, the department in second place was the Department of Health with five. The Office for National Statistics, which produces about one third of official statistics, had three.

A range of actions have been criticised.

In April this year, for example, the UKSA criticised the DWP for saying in a press release that more than 50% of decisions on disability living allowance are made on the basis of the claim form alone without any additional corroborating medical evidence, when the figure should actually have been 10%.

In March it criticised employment minister Esther McVey for telling the House of Commons that unemployment had fallen 400,000 since the general election, when it had actually only fallen by 7,000.

The UKSA said in a statement: "The proportion of concerns raised with us about the DWP reflects a range of factors, including the salience of the policy initiatives undertaken by the department; the range of interests affected by the delivery of the department's policies; the complexity of the systems the department implements; and the department's statistical practices."

In other words, people are more likely to complain about DWP errors because they are in controversial areas.

But the author questions whether that is really enough to account for the gulf between the DWP and other departments that produce considerably more statistics.

Read the blog on the BBC News website here.


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