By Paul SpickerThe writer argues that official estimates of benefit fraud have been “inflated beyond anything the evidence can sustain” by a politically driven process of exaggeration and double-counting. He argues that the government’s widely quoted fraud figure of 7 billion pounds (or 7 per cent of the annual social security budget) was arrived at by including unintentional “claimant error”, adding together different ways of counting the same suspicion and distorting survey evidence. He stresses that abuse of the system does need to be taken seriously, but focusing public discussions of the welfare state on the alleged misbehaviour of a mythical “underclass” is not helpful. Figures show that poverty is not a problem restricted to a permanent minority in society, because most people are likely to be on low incomes at some point in their lives. Rarely is poverty passed from generation to generation, because most poverty is temporary and most poor children do not grow up to be poor adults.
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