Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Rosalind Grender, has submitted a formal complaint to the UK Statistics Authority about the government’s misuse of homelessness statistics in press notices and parliamentary debates.
In a letter responding to her concerns, Ed Humpherson, the Authority’s director general, said he agreed with her complaint. He described the Department’s use of the figures as “disappointing” and that it was “potentially misleading” to the public.
It’s not the first time the government has been reprimanded officially, for trying to mislead the public. Who could forget David Cameron being rebuked by the statistics watchdog over national debt claims – The PM said the government was “paying down Britain’s debts” in a political broadcast, even though the debt was rising (and continues to increase).
Then there was Iain Duncan Smith’s unforgettable misuse of benefit statistics – he was rebuked by Office for National Statistics (ONS) for his claim that 8,000 people moved into work as a result of the benefit cap which was found to be “unsupported by the official statistics.”
Later in that same month, Duncan Smith also drew criticism and a reprimand for claiming around 1 million people have been “stuck on benefits” for at least three of the last four years “despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work”. However, the figures cited also included single mothers, people who were seriously ill, and people awaiting assessment.
Anyone would think that the Conservatives are trying to hide the damaging consequences of their draconian policies. (See: The DWP mortality statistics: facts, values and Conservative concept control.)
The UK Statistics Authority disputed figures announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which claimed last year that homelessness had been more than halved since 2003.
However, the government’s claim was based on a very narrow statutory definition of homelessness which included only those who authorities are obliged to help. The number did not take into account homeless people who were given assistance under other schemes.The overall number of people facing homelessness has not dropped. The government also did not explicitly include the statutory homelessness definition in parliamentary debates in the House of commons and Lords, or in press releases.
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “We’re aware of the issue raised and have taken steps to make sure this does not arise in future.”
Baroness Grender welcomed the finding saying that the Government “has been caught out playing a numbers game, rather than accepting there is a problem, and getting on with the important work of finding solutions”.
“It is time to stop spinning the statistics and start solving the problem,” she said.
Looks like my list from 2014 – A list of official rebukes for Tory lies – needs updating.
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