Iain Duncan Smith’s abject failure to keep an iron grip on the benefits system was highlighted again today as the DWP’s latest quarterly statistics were released. The number of people in receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA) or incapacity benefit (IB) has risen for the second consecutive quarter – with an even bigger rise projected for the next quarter - whilst the increase in the number of universal credit claimants has been tiny.{jcomments on}

The latest figures cover the quarter to February 2014 and show that IB/ESA claimant numbers increased from 2,456,000 in November 2013 to 2,459,000 in February 2014. More damaging still for IDS, the DWP’s early estimate for June 2014 is that the ESA/IB claimant count will have leapt to 2,490,000. This will be the first time in over a decade that the IB/ESA claimant count has risen for three consecutive quarters.

The main cause for the rise is not that Atos or the DWP are being more claimant friendly in the way they assess claimants. It is, in fact, likely to be entirely due to the massive backlog in assessments, meaning that many claimants already on ESA are simply not being reassessed.

Given that IDS is the minister who has repeatedly accused Labour of leaving claimants to languish untested on sickness benefits, the fact that the claimant count is rising for this reason would be a severe embarrassment – if the mainstream press actually covered it.

Meanwhile, the number of claimants on universal credit has risen from 5,180 in February 2014 to just 6,570 in May 2014, an increase of only 1,390 in three months of the flagship project that was supposed to revolutionise welfare benefits in the UK.

The reality is that it is the savage sanctions regime and the myriad cuts in benefits that is changing life for sick and disabled claimants. Universal credit is still just a smokescreen behind which the war against them is being waged.

You can download the latest DWP quarterly statistics from this link


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