“We are seeing many more people — over 900,000 more disabled people — in work as a result of what this government have done”
That was the claim from Theresa May at what was supposed to be her penultimate Prime Minister’s Questions.
We guess she’s referring to the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, which shows the number of disabled people in employment that increased by 930,000 in the five years to 2018.
But she neglected to mention the findings of March 2019 report on disabled people in work by the National Audit Office (NAO), which monitors government spending.
The watchdog says even the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) acknowledges that the increase (in the number of disabled people in work) can’t be attributed to a particular cause, including its policies or programmes and that it has limited evidence of what works.
In other words, the DWP accepts that the increase has not come about as a consequence of the government’s actions despite Theresa May’s claim.
So what’s the actual cause? Evidence shows that the increase in the number of disabled people in work is expected to be due to more numerous people already in work reporting a disability rather than more disabled people who were out of work, moving into work.
It’s also apparent that the current increases in the number of disabled people in work have not been balanced by a reduction in the number of disabled people who are out of work, and watchdog determined that this second figure had remained broadly the same at about 3.7 million in the past five years.
“We’re one of the most generous countries in our support for disabled people”
That was the claim from Conservative Esther McVey on a Victoria Derbyshire programme. So is she right?
And she was asked to show the source for her assertion that the United Kingdom is one of the most generous countries in our support for disabled people, but her office failed to give international comparisons to back it up, but a spokesperson said: “we’re very happy for you to fact check and see where the UK ranks in the world for this”.
The Department for Work and Pensions was approached and were told that they spend £55 billion on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions, and that was more than ever before.
So UK spending on disability benefits has risen in the last decade. But that wasn’t Esther McVey’s claim: she was making a comparison with other countries.
And citing 2015 data from the OECD club of large economies, the DWP said that as a share of GDP, the UK’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany. The G7 group comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.
But then when you look across the entire expanse of OECD members, the picture’s more complex.
The United Kingdom may be second amongst the G7, but we rank 24th out of 36 in the OECD as a whole. Spending just below 1.9 per cent of GDP on sickness, disability and occupational injury, and the United Kingdom is somewhat under the OECD average.
Theresa May said 900,000 more disabled people were in work as a result of what this government has done, and it’s true that in 2018, there were 930,000 more disabled people in jobs than in 2013, but she didn’t mention that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had declared that it can’t assign this increase to government policies.
And the government spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, said the increase was presumably prompted by more people already in work reporting themselves as disabled rather than out-of-work disabled people moving into jobs, and she further neglected to add that the number of disabled people out of work had not diminished in that time but remained static at about 3.7 million.