The media likes to complain about how much welfare and benefits cost the British taxpayer, but they tend to neglect to mention that the figures they quote include contribution-based pensions.

For instance, in the middle of the decade the annual “welfare” cost was around £100 billion. Sounds big, right? Well, over £42 billion of this was contribution-based pension payments (you know, the kind you spend your life paying in to in the first place). £10 billion was benefits for the disabled. In progressively smaller amounts there was also child benefit, income support, housing benefits, and JSA.

At that same time, corporate tax avoidance cost the UK taxpayer £85 billion, and business fraud racked up a £14 million price tag. Government fraud in Whitehall cost us £5 billion, tobacco smuggling 3.5. VAT fraud on mobile phones, 2.5, and welfare fraud £2 billion.

So here we have another example of how the media and politicians distort the truth and attack the least able, rather than pointing their ire at the ones who really cost us the most money.

The government also hands out billions of pounds each year in “corporate welfare” via the Department for Trade and Industry, but we don’t hear a lot about that from the mainstream press, do we?

I’d also like to bring a letter to the Guardian to your attention.

Even though the government says that benefit fraud has been more than halved, it can’t resist grabbing a headline to ease through tough benefit changes which are unconnected (Lie detector tests to catch benefit cheats, December 3). If this wasn’t bad enough, in my experience as an expert witness in benefit fraud cases, most benefit fraud is exaggerated.

Investigations I have carried out for the courts at the request of defence lawyers have shown that the amounts allegedly defrauded are frequently nowhere near as great as alleged. I have exposed many cases with inflated allegations and cases where people are still entitled to the money which they are alleged to have fiddled.
Flawed evidence on benefit fraud

David CameronWe are not surprised that Conservative leader David Cameron has no idea what life is like when you rely on incapacity benefit, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised in his complete fail at basic maths, either.

The Tories say they intend to reassess everyone on Incapacity Benefit to see if they are fit for work, within three years of a Conservative election victory.

Aethelread the Unread takes a look at the maths and works out what that would cost.

So, let’s review. David Cameron is proposing

a minimum £14,565,600 increase in the annual public sector wage bill;

a 148% increase in the number of publicly-funded medical examination centres;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants in the DWP to process the additional paperwork;

an unknown increase in the number of civil servants required to process an unquantified number of appeals against the removal of benefit.

This is all based on the presumption, for which he has advanced no evidence, that a staggeringly high proportion – one fifth – of those receiving Incapacity Benefit are capable of work, and that these hundreds of thousands of fraudsters (assuming they exist) will be flushed out by this process. This is despite the fact that every single IB claimant has already been through multiple medical assessments of the kind he is proposing, and has been repeatedly found to be incapable of work.

Of course, a good politician would never let anything like the facts get in the way of a policy suggestion designed to thrill the readers of the Daily Mail.

And of course, people on incapacity benefits are a safe group to take a stab at – we are inherently unlikely to be able to gather together in large enough numbers to make any kind of publicly visible protest. Even if we were well enough, we probably couldn’t afford the travel costs, and would be too afraid of having our benefits stopped to risk putting our heads above ground. Most of us have to spend all our energy and other resources getting through life day by day. Politicians are safe to pontificate and lie about us, knowing they’re very unlikely ever to have to walk past groups of us protesting, and if they did there would be Daily Mail readers aplenty to shout out “why don’t you just go and get a job?”

And that will probably be the subject of my next post.

It’s not easy to speak up about being on benefits, because of the enormous level of stigma and prejudice attached to being on any kind of incapacity or income support. So we applaud YouTube user nomoreharassment, for making a series of videos about incapacity benefit and her experiences.

She says:

Not everyone on IB is a lazy worthless scrounging piece of sh** despite what you may read in the papers, this is me talking a little about the reality of the situation for most claimants (genuine ones), ordinary decent people who are ill through no fault of their own, who have the same thoughts feelings and aspirations as everyone else does – which I’m sure other people in my position will agree with.

The Guardian tells us “Critics of new medical tests aimed at getting claimants off benefits and into work say they are target-driven measures that penalise genuinely ill people”.

And a blogger with chronic fatigue wishes good luck to the 500,000 turfed off incapacity benefits.

In her Open Letter to David Cameron, blogger Crimsoncrip takes the Conservative leader to task for the way he talks about people on incapacity benefits.

Officially economic inactivity is not being employed, and not looking for work. The frequency with which it is bandied about by some, makes it seem less ‘clean’, than that, as if perhaps those who meet the definition do not contribute to society, or the economy.

David CameronCrimsoncrip goes on to talk about some of the ways people with disabilities contribute, such as volunteer work, a good deal of which is done by people on benefits who can manage a few hours of work a week.

There’s another point to consider here. Unless you take yourself completely out of society, no one is economically inactive. You spend money, you are economically active. People on benefits spend money (and pay VAT or sales taxes), in fact usually they have so little money they do the most economically active thing possible, spending it right away rather than saving it. The money we get goes right back into the economy.

People who’ve lived on benefits for a while usually can’t get much in the way of credit even if they want to, so we have less tendency to do the things that really damage the economy, like running up ridiculous huge debts which banks sell on to other people until the whole thing crashes and the government gives the banks billions of dollars or pounds. We, quite simply, are not the ones shitting all over the pot in this situation.

Paid work isn’t possible for some disabled people, because of their condition, or because they can’t find an employer to employ them within their limitations. This does not mean we don’t want to work, but equally we don’t see removing benefits, or restricting them, and forcing us on to activity programmes, as a real alternative either. We want to be in control, and make this decisions for ourselves, without fear of penalty if we decide we can’t manage. We don’t need to be forced to be responsible, and productive, within our limits many of us, are responsible active citizens, who make a real contribution to society. Why is that contribution not recognised?

Yes, Mr Cameron, why?