12 January 2012

Campaigners behind the Spartacus Report are now having to fight claims by the DWP that the report was ‘selective’ because it looked at only 500 out of 5,500 responses to the DLA consultation.  The bizarre implication is that most disabled people who contributed to the consultation were in favour of cutting their own benefits.

The Spartacus report, produced by disabled campaigners, was launched on Monday and offers convincing evidence – the government have yet to deny it – that they misled parliament over the huge level of opposition from disability organisations to their plans.

The report has caused an enormous stir on the internet , generating literally millions of tweets and thousands of downloads on its first day, although some of its authors have paid a high toll in terms of their health.  

It has gained high profile support from writers, politicians and celebrities and is unquestionably playing a part in changing the views of peers.  

However, in a statement to the Herald Scotland, one of the first papers to cover the report

“ a spokeswoman for the DWP said the Spartacus report was a selective analysis of consultation responses, which had looked at 500 responses out of more than 5500 submitted on the Government's proposals.

She added: "Disability Living Allowance is an outdated benefit with the majority of people getting it for life without checks to see if their condition has changed. This has led to hundreds of millions of pounds in overpayments.

"We have been working closely with disabled people and disability organisations on the introduction of Personal Independence Payment and have listened to their views."

In fact the Spartacus report analysed every single one of the 523 organisational submissions to the DLA consultation.

 In their response to the consultation the government continually  separated what organisations had said from what individuals had said, so looking just at organisational responses was both reasonable and practically possible for a small and unfunded group.  Their report showed the gulf between what the government asserted disability organisations had told them and what those organisations had genuinely said.

Indeed, the government do not seem to be denying the accuracy of the Spartacus Report. Instead they seem to be claiming that although disability organisations aren’t in favour of PIP, the majority of individuals who responded were.

The reality is quite different.

The government consultation report points out, rather  dismissively, that 2,449 of the individual responses were ‘standard responses’.  This means that they were forms or emails completed with the help of large disability organisations who were objecting to the government proposals.

A further 85 responses were submitted by DWP staff .  We can be sure these were dutifully pro-reform.  Though what is less certain is why civil servants were paid by the DWP to take part in a consultation with the public about departmental policy.  The fact that in relation to reducing the care component from three rates to two the only supportive quote the DWP could find was from their own staff looking forward to having to do less work is perhaps a clue.

That leaves a further 2,448 individual responses. The vast majority of these are virtually certain to have been  from claimants and carers who depend on DLA.  So it is pretty much unthinkable that the majority of responses to the DLA consultation were in favour of axing the benefit.

Hundreds of disabled claimants worked for months without funding or official support to produce the extraordinarily detailed and forensically argued Spartacus Report.  Some have suffered health setbacks as a result.

For the DWP to claim that their report was ‘selective’ and thus unrepresentative of the views of those who took part is simply more deceit and dirty tricks from an already deeply discredited department.

Don’t let them get away with it.  Do three things right now.

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