Serious doubts have emerged about crucial statistics used by the minister for disabled people to justify the government’s sweeping disability living allowance (DLA) reforms.
Maria Miller was appearing this week before MPs on the work and pensions committee as part of its inquiry into coalition plans to cut spending on working-age DLA by 20 per cent and replace the benefit with a new personal independence payment (PIP).
In her evidence, Miller twice stated that DLA spending had grown by 38 per cent over the eight years to 2010-11, as a justification for the government’s cuts and reforms.
But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now admitted that this figure refers to total DLA spending, including payments to children and older people, even though only working-age DLA is being cut and reformed.
The DWP told Disability News Service that the real growth in working-age DLA spending was only 28 per cent.
But even this figure of 28 per cent is almost certainly too high, as it fails to exclude demographic factors – such as the general growth in the population – which the DWP has previously admitted is an important consideration in determining the true rise in DLA claimants.
Miller suggested to the committee that demographic factors would remove a third from the figure of 38 per cent that she quoted.
This could mean the growth in working-age DLA spending is as low as 18 or 19 per cent over eight years, rather than the 38 per cent quoted by Miller – but the DWP has been unable to produce the relevant figure.
A DWP spokeswoman said the percentage increase for working age spending – taking into account demographic factors – “does not exist at the moment”.
It is the second time the government has been caught using misleading DLA figures to justify its reforms.
In August, the government claimed official statistics showed the number of DLA claimants had risen by 30 per cent over eight years, when the growth in the number of working-age DLA claimants – excluding demographic factors – was just 13 per cent.
Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who chairs the work and pensions committee, said Miller had been “evasive” throughout the entire evidence session.
She said there were “concerns about the government’s use of statistics” and that Miller had failed to provide a “proper explanation of where this 38 per cent figure came from”.