All government departments spin, but the Department for Work and Pensions seems to spin harder and faster than most. Financial Times political correspondent Kiran Stacey describes a typical encounter:
DWP: We’ve got a story for you. Figures show that the benefit cap is working and it hasn’t even been brought in yet.
Me: Really? How do they do that?
DWP: Well the number of people who have come off benefits since we announced the policy is XXX thousand. [I forget the actual number the person used.]
Me: Right, and how do you know they are coming off because of the cap?
DWP: Well, we don’t know for sure, but there is anecdotal evidence from Job Centres around the country that the threat of the cap is making people decide to go back to work.
Me: But how do you know that that is true for all XXX thousand who have found work in this period?
DWP: We can’t prove it with numbers, but anecdotal evidence….
Me: There is one way to at least suggest it with facts. Can you show the number going into work is much higher than in equivalent periods in previous years?
DWP: I’ll see if we can get that for you.
I didn’t hear from the contact about the story again.”
That was in 2013. Since then the DWP has taken a more sinister turn – accompanying spinning with lashing out at those who fail to repeat the script, including the Guardian, the BBC and foodbank charity, the Trussell Trust.
The department certainly has its work cut out, having been tasked with the job of loading George Osborne’s public spending cuts disproportionately onto some of Britain’s poorest citizens.
The combination of cuts and incompetence has been toxic for all sorts of struggling and, indeed, “hardworking” people the government would prefer you not to know about. That is why we’ve launched DWP Unspun, as a spin-off from the campaigning website False Economy, which has established a strong track record in exposing the reality of government austerity.
Some of DWP Unspun will make you laugh, like coverage of the government’s increasingly desperate attempts to put a positive spin on failing Universal Credit. But much of it will make you angry – and we urge you to support the campaigns listed below and in Take action.