Full Fact asks watchdog to intervene over inaccurate incapacity benefit reporting

29 July 2011

Today the Disability Benefits Consortium — a collection of 50 charities and organisations that work with the disabled — issued a press release arguing that the Government needed to do more to prevent the spread of "dangerously misleading" statistics.

This comes after Full Fact found on Wednesday that the media had repeated mistakes on the proportion of incapacity benefit claimants found "fit for work", and the Work and Pensions select committee had warned of "irresponsible and inaccurate" press coverage of the issue.

Full Fact has complained about this reporting on several occasions, and with the help of the PCC we have ensured many of these inaccurate stories have been corrected.

However with errors continuing to find their way into print, we believe that more action may be required.

We have therefore today written to the UK Statistics Authority to ask that they intervene by requiring the Department for Work and Pensions to include guidance on how incapacity benefit statistics should and should not be used. In particular, we would like the Authority to warn against some of the most egregious examples of inaccurate reporting that we have seen.

This is an area in which we've had some success before. Following a series of misleading headlines about the proportion of 'new jobs' going to 'foreign workers', Full Fact persuaded the Office for National Statistics to include a note on its releases setting out precisely the limits of the data.

We hope that the UK Statistics Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions will consider doing likewise.

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