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Profit Fraud: The Proper-Wing Lie that Refuses to Die

Information broke this week that the Equalities and Human Rights Fee (EHRC) is investigating the Division for Work and Pensions (DWP)  over its remedy of disabled individuals, particularly whether or not the division did not make cheap changes for individuals with studying disabilities or long-term psychological well being situations when finishing up profit well being assessments. 

“The DWP has been failing disabled individuals for many years now” and “full transparency and accountability is crucial,” mentioned David Linden MP, the SNP’s Social Justice Spokesperson, in response to information of the investigation.

For years, successive Tory governments and the media ecosystems that assist them, have demonised profit claimants, presenting them as ‘scroungers,’ ‘frauds’ and ‘cheats.’ Who can neglect the Solar’s ‘Beat the Cheat’ marketing campaign in 2012, encouraging readers to be “patriotic” by reporting suspected profit cheats to a profit fraud hotline? In 2016, the then chancellor George Osborne refused to apologise for making an attempt to slice £4.4bn off advantages for individuals with disabilities, as he defended his controversial funds which led to the resignation of the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

Right now, little or no has modified, besides that the nation is mired in a cost-of-living disaster that has fuelled the sharpest increase in absolute poverty in 30 years.

Time to lift advantages, not decrease them, absolutely? Earlier this yr, Labour was warned by an alliance of charities and think-tanks that poverty will soar if it involves energy after which fails to spend the cash wanted to reform welfare and assist these struggling most with the price of residing. The report by IPPR and Altering Realities mentioned that 4.4 million individuals within the UK are actually in poverty, with the state of affairs set to worsen without radical change.

However for a lot of right-wing politicians and their media allies, ‘welfare cheats’ is a line that bears infinite repetition.

In a bid to save lots of £9bn within the subsequent 4 years, the federal government is “scaling up the struggle in opposition to these stealing from the taxpayer…” Mel Stride, work and pensions secretary, introduced.

“With new authorized powers, higher knowledge, and 1000’s of extra employees, our complete plan ensures we now have the mandatory instruments to sort out the scourge of profit fraud,” Stride continued.

In a five-point plan for welfare reform delivered on the Iain Duncan-Smith based Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a right-wing assume tank and, as such, a consolation zone for Sunak, the PM promised to finish ‘sicknote tradition.’ He introduced plans for brand spanking new cuts to non-public independence fee (PIP), claiming the rise in profitable PIP claims was “driving up the price of the incapacity advantages invoice at an unsustainable price.”

Taking intention at claimants with psychological well being points, the PM spoke of requiring a “extra goal and rigorous method that focuses assist on these with the best wants and additional prices” and the necessity to make the system “fairer and more durable to take advantage of.” He advised the CSJ  how the variety of individuals claiming PIP as a result of melancholy or anxiousness, had doubled since 2019, suggesting that the system was “undermined by the way in which persons are requested to make subjective and unverifiable claims about their functionality.”

The speech was labelled “chilling, threatening, and stigmatising.” 

“The PM’s wording as we speak simply continues a pattern that’s stigmatising, dangerous, and inaccurate. The issue will not be disabled individuals on advantages, it isn’t the fault of these left disabled by the federal government’s appalling dealing with of Covid, it isn’t the fault of these damaged by psychological sickness due to failed financial coverage and the cost-of-living disaster, the issue is the system itself and its long-term prejudices, a system in a position to blame anybody however itself,” mentioned Disability Rights UK.

The correct-wing media in the meantime didn’t maintain again within the monstering of ‘jobless’ profit claimants.

‘Advantages Busts: New advantages fraud squads will arrest and high quality much more welfare cheats, Rishi reveals in crackdown plan,’ splashed the Sun following the PM’s speech.

The Telegraph, accused previously of ‘legitimising’ hate speech in direction of disabled profit claimants by way of discriminatory articles, went a step additional, laying into the DWP.

‘Britain caught with a file £30bn advantages invoice, DWP’s personal forecasts present,’ it headlined, in an article about funds to individuals who don’t have a job persevering with to rise “regardless of stricter assessments” and “Rishi Sunak’s welfare overhaul.”

Whereas profit fraud in Britain is a severe and dear subject, the vilification of claimants inside political and media circles, conveniently ignores the totally different our bodies of analysis that recommend claims of incapacity profit fraud is exaggerated. Points impacting the well being and welfare of households with incapacity are additionally routinely ignored or understated.

For instance, nowhere in Sunak’s speech nor the lurid experiences about it, cite figures launched by the DWP earlier this yr, which confirmed practically half of all people in households with at the least one disabled little one and one disabled grownup in Britain have been residing in poverty by 2021-22. The figures have been according to projections by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in 2018, which warned that households with disabled youngsters and the place there are each disabled adults and youngsters, can be worst hit by tax and welfare reform adjustments up till 21-22.

Ellen Clifford of Disabled Folks In opposition to Cuts and writer of The Struggle on Disabled Folks, described the findings as “surprising” and a “horrible indictment of a rustic as wealthy as Britain, the place, over the identical two years that the brand new measures present very sharp will increase in incapacity poverty, the variety of billionaires within the UK rose by 20 %.”

Incapacity profit fraud a ‘non-issue’

In the meantime, separate and newer DWP figures show that there have been nearly no recorded losses to the taxpayer as a result of fraud within the incapacity advantages system within the monetary yr ending 2024.

Incapacity Residing Allowance fraud was simply 0.1 %, rounded all the way down to £0m. PIP dishonest was discovered to be 0 % in the identical interval, the data showed.

PIP overpayments represented 0.4 %, equating to round £90m misplaced in a yr, marking a big lower from the earlier yr, when such overpayments stood 1.1 % (£200m). The overpayments have been mentioned to be primarily as a result of errors made by the division when allocating award ranges on the evaluation stage.

Responding to the figures, Mikey Erhardt, campaigner at Incapacity Rights UK described PIP fraud as a ‘non-issue.’

“New knowledge reveals what we, as disabled individuals, have identified for years – PIP fraud is a non-issue. PIP fraud is now the bottom on file – regardless of the federal government inserting fraud entrance and centre of their newest public bulletins,” he mentioned.

Erhardt added: “If the federal government is anxious about fraud, it might be severe in regards to the £15.2bn that multinational corporations disguise from the UK through tax havens. Cash which may fund public providers that all of us want and use. As an alternative, disabled individuals proceed to be demonised.”

The full quantity of unclaimed advantages can be routinely lacking from the profit ‘fraud’ clamour. Research by Policy in Practice discovered that 8.4m individuals might be lacking out on a median of £2,700 per yr in rights-based advantages.

‘The failure to ship assist to people who find themselves entitled to it immediately impacts training, well being outcomes and social participation for thousands and thousands of individuals,” mentioned Deven Ghelani, Coverage in Follow director.

Sunak’s wealth

Amid the panic about ‘welfare cheats,’ and including to the insult, have been the experiences this week involving the Prime Minister’s private wealth. As thousands and thousands of individuals wrestle to make ends meet and depend on welfare funds simply to outlive, the Prime Minister and his spouse have seen their wealth increase from a internet price of £529m in 2023 to £651m. The rise of £120 million within the couple’s fortunes is linked to Murty’s shareholding in Infosys, an IT firm co-founded by her father and based mostly in Bangalore, India, which has seen a pointy enhance in its share worth.

Sunak confronted criticism after a abstract of his tax affairs confirmed he paid an efficient tax price of 23 % on a £2.2m revenue in 2023, after making a £1.8m revenue on his holding in a US funding fund. The speed was a lot decrease than the highest price of 45 % as a result of some revenue was taxed at supply within the US and the speed of capital positive factors tax is decrease at 20 %.

Robert Palmer, the chief director at Tax Justice UK, referred to the tax system as “damaged.” “Folks will likely be shocked to be taught the prime minister has such a low tax price regardless of bringing in thousands and thousands. However this can be a characteristic of our damaged tax system,” said Palmer.

His ties to the US have been a fragile subject for the Prime Minister. He was criticised in April 2022 after it was revealed he held a US inexperienced card, which means he declared himself as a everlasting US resident for tax functions, while he was chancellor and for six years as an MP. His spouse Murty was additionally criticised after her non-dom standing was revealed.

Labour has lengthy referred to as to abolish the particular non-domiciled (non-dom) rule that enables individuals to reside within the UK however have their dwelling abroad for tax causes, and never pay any UK tax on cash they make elsewhere. Labour says they’d spend the money saved on the NHS and colleges.

On this yr’s Spring Price range, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt introduced the federal government would abolish non-dom tax breaks, telling MPs there can be “transitional preparations” for these benefiting from the present tax preparations.

In a swipe on the prime minister’s spouse, Keir Starmer requested why it had taken the Conservatives so lengthy to “stand as much as their buddies, their funders and their households.”

Tax Havens

Lately, HM Income and Customs (HMRC) has confronted scrutiny over offshore tax avoidance and evasion. Figures disclosed to the unbiased think-tank Tax Policy Associates by HMRC in September 2021 confirmed that UK taxpayers held practically £570bn in tax havens, together with offshore funds.

As thousands and thousands residing a naked existence on advantages get vilified as ‘fraudsters’ and ‘cheats,’ the variety of investigations being carried out by (HMRC) fraud crew wanting into offshore, company, and rich taxpayers has fallen by greater than half in 5 years.

Figures obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism launched in February, present that civil investigations opened by the offshore, company, and rich unit fell from 1,417 in 2018-19 to 627 in 2022-23.

“Even when [HMRC is] opening civil instances, they look like going after the better, lower-value targets,” mentioned Fiona Fernie, a accomplice at tax adviser Blick Rothenberg.

Simply weeks after Rishi Sunak’s ‘full-on assault on disabled individuals’, as James Taylor, director of technique on the incapacity equality charity Scope, described the speech, Unite printed a report into profiteering by UK firms.

Analysing the revenue margins of 17,000 corporations, it discovered that corporate profit margins have elevated by an enormous 30 % since 2018/19. Fuel and electrical energy corporations have been discovered to be the worst culprits, with an elevated revenue margin of 363 %. 

As firms make obscene income, family budgets proceed to be squeezed, and people of advantages, lots of which can’t afford the essentials like meals and heating, get labelled ‘scroungers.’

Little question, with the final election now simply weeks away, essentially the most susceptible in society will face extra vitriol as the federal government seeks extra low cost electioneering headlines to divert consideration from their very own mishandling of the economic system, welfare coverage, immigration, to call just a few.

Proper-Wing Media Watch – Tory newspapers again Sunak, with some totally absurd claims

It needed to be one of many least auspicious begins to a basic election ever. A beleaguered Prime Minister trailing the opposition by 20 factors within the polls, asserting a summer season election whereas drowned out, not solely by the pouring rain, however by the lyrics of Issues Can Solely Get Higher, the anthem of Tony Blair’s victorious 1997 marketing campaign.

However because the memes flooded social media, and pictures of a bedraggled Prime Minister stood exterior No 10. dominated the entrance pages the following day, the Conservative press stayed as loyal to the PM as they may, making some fairly determined claims. 

Backing Sunak all the way in which, the Each day Categorical claimed that Britain has “bounced again” underneath his management, whereas Keir Starmer “wishes energy for its personal sake.” Its lead story headlined ‘PM: I Am Preventing For Our Nation’s Future,” learn: “Simply as he made the best choices as Chancellor through the pandemic, Mr Sunak has held his nerve as Prime Minister, ended disarray at Westminster and led us out of an financial disaster.

“Right now, he’s nonetheless the best individual to safeguard Britain’s restoration and guarantee we grasp the big alternatives out there to us,” the editorial continued.

In a separate article, the newspaper tried to border Steve Bray, the well-known anti-Brexit activist accountable for music that accompanied Sunak’s speech, because the one who was humiliated.

“Brexit hater humiliated as audio system blow whereas he sabotages Rishi Sunak’s election speech,” it splashed. Others in fact, noticed it in a different way, with Bray labelled a ‘genius’ for his newest antics.

A number of newspapers centered on Sunak’s gamble of calling an election when the Tories are lagging Labour so definitively within the polls, when he may have waited till the autumn.

The Instances took such a view, arguing that the announcement was “maybe the final attainable second for this authorities to move to the nation on one thing just like the entrance foot.”

The Telegraph took an identical line declaring Sunak noticed “a window of alternative.” Taking intention on the opposition, its editorial acknowledged that “a Labour authorities would possibly properly deliver change, but it surely won’t be of the great variety.”

“Labour would tax extra, regulate extra, be weaker in defence of the nationwide curiosity and be much more relaxed about mass migration and the excesses of inexperienced ideologues.”

The Each day Mail additionally centered on the timing, claiming Sunak has “seized the initiative,” and calling the choice “nothing if not daring.”

Murdoch’s Solar in the meantime expressed its frustration over the election coinciding with the Euros, Taylor Swift, and Wimbledon. ‘Oh ballots’ was the headline of the report which admitted the PM had leapt on information of tumbling inflation to “take an enormous gamble.” The story additionally cited Michael Gove, who reportedly led the Cupboard in assist of the early date, saying: “Who dares wins… and you’ve got dared, Prime Minister, and can win.”

Optimistic speak from the levelling up secretary, who simply days later introduced he won’t be standing for re-election as an MP forward of the final election.

Smear of the Week: Proper’s witch-hunt in opposition to Civil Service drags on

Lazy, unproductive, working from dwelling, too beneficiant pensions, the ‘blob.’ The poor Civil Service has been pressured to endure some disagreeable insults lately, as successive Conservative governments have seemingly blamed them for their very own failings.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, for instance, was accused of chasing ‘low cost headlines,’ along with his push for civil servants to return to the workplace, having beforehand supported hybrid working to minimise the necessity for workplace house.

The most recent smear marketing campaign in opposition to the half-a-million-plus apparently work-shy grifters concerned their selection of lanyards.

Rishi Sunak’s minister for ‘widespread sense’, Esther McVey, earned herself some headlines, asserting in a speech at, you guessed it, the Centre for Coverage Research, a bundle of adjustments to the way in which equality, range, and inclusion are dealt with in authorities. She acknowledged that EDI roles equate to round 400 full-time positions, which is definitely simply 0.1 % of civil servants.

She took explicit intention at ‘non-standard’ lanyards worn by employees, arguing they “shouldn’t be a “random decide and blend” and that authorities workers ought to go away their private political opinions “on the constructing entrance.” Making them put on a “commonplace” lanyard design was a “seen” approach of displaying that, McVey prompt.

Eventually week’s PMQs, Keir Starmer seized on the Tory minister’s feedback to ridicule Sunak, mocking the minister for widespread sense’s “very important crackdown on the gravest of threats.”

However regardless of the ridicule of the Tories’ newest lame tradition struggle assault, the right-wing press has been eager to maintain it alive.

In his column within the Each day Mail, Daniel Hannan, or Lord Hannan of Kingsclere, who was a Conservative MEP from 1999 to 2020, and is now President of the Institute for Free Commerce (one more Eurosceptic think-tank that advocates “the ethical case for open commerce”) tried to equate civil servants’ selection of lanyards as proof of “obsessive wokery” that “makes them worse at their jobs.”

Recycling the identical well-worn argument, on Might 18, the Categorical spoke of a ‘woke crackdown’ starting as ‘a whole lot of ‘range’ civil service jobs to be axed.’ The report excitedly knowledgeable of employees being promised safety from bullying in the event that they refuse to “signal as much as woke concepts, for instance by failing to incorporate their pronouns on e mail signatures.”

Little question there are aged Tories and newspaper editors with lengthy recollections who, within the occasion of a Labour victory on July 4, will likely be dusting down headlines from the Thatcherite ‘80s berating ‘loony left’ councils for his or her assist for progressive insurance policies. This time it is going to be Whitehall civil servants within the firing line. Within the unusual world of right-wing tradition wars, the outdated tunes are all the time one of the best.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is writer of Proper-Wing Watch

The submit Benefit Fraud: The Right-Wing Lie that Refuses to Die appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK's progressive debate.