THE Bishops of Bradford and Leicester have signed a letter to the Prime Minister which
accuses members of his Government of misusing data "to undermine
the credibility of benefit claimants".
In the letter, which was sent to Mr Cameron on Thursday of last
week, the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the
Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Timothy Stevens, write that
government ministers "have given misleading and inaccurate
information about those on benefits", and calls on them to
One of the examples it gives is from 30 March, when the chairman
of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps (above), "stated
that 878,300 people had dropped claims to incapacity benefit
'rather than completing a medical test'". This had given the
impression "that those who withdrew their application had submitted
false claims or feared that they would not be eligible for benefit
if tested". The letter says that there was "no evidence that people
withdrew their applications 'rather than' undergo a medical
The letter cites two other instances in which it says that
ministers "misused and misinterpreted" data, "at the same time as
major changes to the benefits system" were being introduced.
It continues: "It is disturbing that these three instances
conform to an apparent pattern of misleading and sometimes wholly
inaccurate information from the Government when dealing with the
issue of social security; a practice that has added to the
misunderstanding and stigma which continues to pollute the debate
around poverty in the UK.
"We are concerned that these inaccuracies paint some of the most
vulnerable in our society in an unfavourable light, stigmatising
those who need the support of the benefits system. No political or
financial imperative can be given to make this acceptable."