After Shapps' bad data, the DWP is back in the spotlight

IDS is spinning furiously.

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On the same day that it's revealed that the UK Statistics Authority has rebuked Grant Shapps for making an unsupportable claim about the effectiveness of the government's new Employment and Support Allownace, the Telegraph seems to be playing the same old tune with the Department for Work and Pensions.

First, there's the misleading headline: the claim '25,000 disabled people find work’ is quickly corrected in the body of the piece to "more than 25,000 disabled people have found jobs, training or work experience". That's another example of the Government's tendency to boost their employment figures with people who aren't really doing work at all; earlier this year, they were slammed for including over 100,000 people on mostly unpaid back-to-work schemes in their stats.

Then there's the burying of the actual stats. In this case, that's not because they were privately briefed to the paper, as they were in Shapps' case – something which is a clear breach of rules regarding civil servants' handling of data – but because the numbers themselves are recycled from February this year, when data was released showing that 14,530 people with a disability had started work experience. That total is well over half the figure the government is trumpeting, and there are no corresponding figures detailing how many of those went on to get paid employment. The rest comes from aid given to help people set up businesses, members of mentoring programs, and "formal training for a job interview".

Yes, people "working with a business mentor" ended up becoming "finding work" in the headline, which might be a tad oversimplification.

The figures are being pimped out a second time to promote IDS' plan to boost the schemes. He tells the paper:

We are already helping to boost the employment opportunities for disabled people to get a foothold in the jobs market, get their careers on track and achieve their full potential.

However there’s more we need to do, when too often the talents of disabled people in the workforce are left untapped.

That means addressing the barriers that hold disabled people back, giving them the best prospects of securing a job.

To work out what the best prospects of securing a job are, it might be best if the government would first honestly report how many people have actually got a job.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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