Osborne: Welfare cheats are “like burglars”

A welfare cheat is like a mugger who robs you on the street

That was George Osborne in yesterday’s News of the World (behind a paywall) talking about welfare cheats.

It’s churlish to note the use of his language, though that’s not going to stop me, because it was David Cameron who said that

We will be challenging lobby groups that are making inflammatory arguments. We will take their claims on. We will highlight when it is irresponsible to make statements like that.

and Osborne has form.

Osborne is being inflammatory and irresponsible – and his arguments are part of a narrative that is willfully ignorant and deliberately manipulative (as I’ve highlighted here and here) – so it’s down to us to continue take his claims on.

I’ll start by reminding people that most disability benefits are not work- or sickness-related. For example, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) helps with the additional costs of disability, primarily related to personal care. It is for people under 65, though you can continue to be in receipt of DLA over the age of 65 if you have it before you are 65. (Attendance Allowance is the equivalent for people over 65. Both are non-means tested.)

And rather than pejorative statements that play to Osborne’s prejudices, let’s introduce some facts:

  • More disabled people live in relative poverty than non-disabled people, and are less likely to be in employment or have education qualifications than non-disabled people <em<because of the institutional barriers they face in society. Calling disabled people welfare cheats doesn’t solve the issue. It ignores it.
  • 80% of DLA claimants are in the bottom 60% of income, meaning more precisely that DLA is targeted exactly at those disabled people who live in relative poverty. This is not a lifestyle choice. No one chooses to live in relative poverty.
  • The fraud rate for DLA is 0.5%. For Income Support that figure is 2.9%, for Incapacity Benefit it’s 1% and for Jobseekers Allowance it’s 2.8%. The DWP’s own administrative error rate is 0.8% (stats via Benefit Scrounging Scum). For a benefit specifically focusing on disabled people, does that sounds like widespread fraud?

Feel free to add your own thoughts on Osborne’s fatally damaging narrative. If you’re interested in this topic, do also check out Where’s the Benefit?, Anne Wollenberg, Louise Bolotin and Benefit Scrounging Scum, all of whom make great and thoughtful contributions to this issue.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

4 thoughts on “Osborne: Welfare cheats are “like burglars””

  1. I don’t like cheats in general but, as a recipient of DLA, I definitely don’t like people who defraud the benefit system in general. I agree, the inflammatory style of Osborne and others does nothing to help anyone.
    Here’s a statement for you Mr Osborne: “MP expense cheats are/were like thieves, muggers, highwaymen and burglars.”
    I do hope I haven’t offended you or your fellow MPs.

  2. Great blog post, and today’s one about the media continually referring to DLA as an out of work benefit (Mail did the same on Saturday) just makes journalists look lazy. Just wrote a piece on my blog about how proposed cuts to social care budgets will drastically impact NHS funding, which might interest you. http://www.nhsbuff.blogspot.com

  3. Thanks both for your comments – both much appreciated.
    Sharon – thanks for the link and the post. Will definitely take a look.

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