A letter to Lord Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive of NEXT

Stonebird is immensely proud to publish this excellent letter by Joss to Lord Wolfson, after his recent appearance on BBC's Question Time.

 Where's The Benefit describe  what happened on the programme  : (http://wheresthebenefit.blogspot.com/2011/12/crimestoppers.html)

"This week on Question Time judge Constance Briscoe claimed there were vast swathes of fakers out there, but when asked how many she, unsurprisingly, didn't know.Next boss Lord Wolfson then claimed that JSA (Job Seekers Allowance)  wasn't the benefit with the fraud problem, but disability benefits.....No-one corrected him."

Here , then,  is Joss's letter to Lord Wolfson :

Dear Lord Simon Wolfson,

On Question Time (8th December 2011) you said that "the system that is played more than any other, incidentally, is the disability benefits". This is untrue.

In July of this year the government published Fraud and Error in the Benefits System: Preliminary 2010/2011 Estimateshttp://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/fem/fem_oct09_sep10.pdf
This document shows that the amount of disability benefit reportedly lost due to fraud remains low, indicating the majority of claimants are genuine.

It states that Incapacity Benefit, by percentage, is one of the least overpaid benefits and that more is lost on Incapacity Benefit due to official error than to fraud.

The figure for those fraudulently claiming Incapacity benefit is 0.3%. The figure for official error is 1.2%.

The Document states that £130m was lost to ‘Fraud and Error’ in the relevant period and that £70 Million of that was due to ‘Official Error’.

I would also point out that they have managed to add the three figures for ‘Fraud’ £20m, ‘Customer Error’ £50m and ‘Official Error’ £70m and arrive at a total figure of £130m which is clearly £10 million pounds out – who knows which way it is askew! Perhaps if I ever get well enough to return to work I could be employed checking government documents for basic errors – I would jump at the chance.
It goes on to say that the rate of Disability Living Allowance Fraud is 0.5% and that for Official Error is 0.8% - again more error than fraudulent claiming and again a low figure for fraud compared with other benefits.

I have, unfortunately, been on Incapacity Benefit for 14 years due to an illness that prevents me from being able to sustain any kind of activity in a way that makes work possible and I am constantly dismayed by the way that sick and disabled people are reported on in the media.

It is all very well politicians and journalists remembering to, once in a while, mention that most are genuine claimants – those who David Cameron claimed he would make sure would be looked after and who, are now, having to appeal against bad decision making by ATOS who are not sanctioned when they get it wrong but are paid for ‘through rates’ of claimants and, thus, disincentivised to spend enough time inputting the data accurately in the first place. The truth; that, according to the government’s own statistics, most of those claiming disability benefits are genuine, is not the overall message that gets through and I admit that hearing or reading everyday that I am a piece of ‘workshy scum’ is starting to take its toll on my mental health when I am already physically unwell and have been everyday for 15 years.

You may wish to claim that you don’t mean genuinely ill people like myself but in the public imagination your words tar everyone with the same brush – is that a deliberate strategy?
Nobody would argue that the amounts involved are insignificant but to say, as you did, that "the system that is played more than any other, incidentally, is the disability benefits" was, at best, an error born of ignorance and at worst a deliberate untruth that might incite further hatred against sick and disabled people.

So thank you for adding to the burden of all of us who have been unlucky enough to become ill or disabled and are, consequently, unable to work, by repeating the lie on national television. Perhaps you should check the figures first. I suspect that the rate of fraud in your own organisation is much higher. Do you have the figure?

I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Fantastic letter - well done! It is no wonder that members of a focus group recently were reported as believing 7 out of 10 disability claimants were scroungers making fraudulent claims, whereas the DWP figure is more like 1 in 200 to 300 depending on which benefit you are looking at. No wonder there are increasing levels of hate crime against people who are sick and disabled and a hardening of attitudes towards supporting people who are genuinely too unwell to work. Levels of disbelief are becoming so high, there is a complete failure to understand the nature and impact of chronic ill health. The responsibility of a humane society to look after the sick and disabled is being severely eroded and we are all feeling under continual attack. It's exhausting, stressful and completely demoralising. Sorry, I am posting as anonymous...I am too exhausted to work out how to log in


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