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Complainant Name:
Sheila Gilmore MP

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Sunday Telegraph


Sheila Gilmore MP complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published a misleading article in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice. The complainant said that the newspaper had incorrectly implied that 900,000 people who had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit had dropped their claims rather than undergo a face-to-face assessment for the replacement benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). In fact, the figure reflected the number of new applicants for ESA who had withdrawn their applications before the assessment since the introduction of the benefit four years ago.


The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following letter:

Benefits claims

SIR - "900,000 drop benefit claim rather than face a medical" (Mar 31) was misleading because it conflated two related but separate processes.

The sickness benefit in question is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which replaced Incapacity Benefit for new claims from October 2008.

The figure of 900,000 refers to all those who have applied for ESA since its introduction over four years ago, but who have withdrawn their claim before undergoing a face-to-face assessment. These people weren't claiming the benefit before. People generally drop their claim for perfectly innocent reasons - often people become ill, apply as a precaution but withdraw when they get better.

Since April 2011 people who were on Incapacity Benefit have been migrated to ESA. This has yet to be completed but of the 600,000 who have already been processed, only 19,700 have dropped their claim.

19,700 makes a far weaker headline than 900,000. Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman was quoted as accusing Labour of using Incapacity Benefit to ‘hide the unemployed'. This leaves out of account the fact that numbers soared under Thatcher, and Labour introduced ESA in an effort to get people back to work.

Sheila Gilmore
MP for Edinburgh East (Lab)
Member, Work & Pensions Select Committee

The following footnote was added to the online article, along with a link to the letter:

Since this article was first posted, Sheila Gilmore, MP for Edinburgh East (Lab), Member, Work & Pensions Select Committee, has said that the 900,000 figure in this article was misleading because it conflated two related but separate processes, and that of the 600,000 claimants who have migrated from Incapacity Benefit to ESA since April 2011 only 19,700 have dropped their claim.

Date Published: 17/05/2013

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