Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Godwin's Law Must Die - the problem when 1930s Germany really is the only good parallel

On the internet we have a rule. It is called Godwin's law. Godwin's law states that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%)."

In the 21 years since Godwin first made this observation, it has been quoted whenever anyone has mentioned Nazis, as a way of saying "You have mentioned Nazis, therefore your argument is ridiculous, therefore you have lost the debate."

The use of Godwin's law to end and win an argument by default has been helpful in keeping arguments from straying into ridiculous comparisons but it also brings a risk; the danger that when a comparable situation does arise, it will be ignored because the comparison cannot be made in argument. Godwin's law has power because of the idea that nothing as bad as the Nazis and the holocaust will ever happen again because we have learnt from what happened in the past. I think that this assumption is foolish and dangerous. Of course such atrocities will happen again. Throughout history we have had bloodthirsty power-hungry leaders of pure evil, over and over again. Pol Pot, Pinochet, Mao, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and many other leaders have killed thousands, even millions each. Genocides are an relatively frequent occurrence. Groups have been singled out and slaughtered for many different reasons over the centuries, and others will be in the future.

My point here is important so I will state it again. Atrocities of this sort are not rare, have happened and will happen again, and to ridicule anyone making a comparison with the Nazis is to dismiss warnings in a very dangerous way.

Godwin's law and disability rights

I and many other disability rights activists abandoned Godwin's law some time ago. I believe that sick and disabled people in the UK are under attack and are the subject of a government and media smear campaign with the aim of turning public opinion against them. Although the Nazis ran a eugenics programme to eradicate all incurably sick and mentally ill people, (Called Action T4) the comparison that I am drawing is mostly with the propaganda element of that programme and the attitude behind it.

English translation: "60000 RM - this is what this person suffering from hereditary defects costs the Community of Germans during his lifetime. Fellow Citizen, that is your money, too."

The poster seen here speaks of the cost of caring for the disabled person depicted. The same message that is echoed in the cries of "this is taxpayer's money" that we hear from indignant right-wing tabloid papers today. Papers like the Daily Mail and the Express routinely publish every "benefit cheat" story that they can find, with big front page splashes about people with houses and multiple cars.
We even have "Saints and scroungers" from the BBC spreading the hate. Otherwise nice people are being convinced that there are legions of benefit cheats faking their inability to walk or the horrendous pain that makes every activity torture. (Apart from me. For some reason they never mean me.) All of these politicians and journalists seem to be adept at twisting the facts and lying through omission just for the public outrage that they feed on. They also ignore the realities of illness, of having good days and bad days, of choosing to push through pain to have a good day out, or just to pretend to your family that you are having a good day out so as to keep them happy. As Sue Marsh said, by their standards, we are all benefit cheats now.

Black Triangle Campaign recently received an email referring to comments on their forum making comparisons with the past as "dangerous and extreme". The email said: "I am not interested in extreme, left wing politics. I am trying to bring attention to government funded medical tyranny, copied from America, and such extreme comments are a distraction from what's happening at government level. (...) you are playing a very, very, VERY dangerous game with desperate peoples' lives by posting such extreme comments relating to past war time atrocities that belongs in the past. I DO understand why people feel like this but there are many, many very frail people out there and this will cause harm."

I disagree with the author of that email. I've talked before about how government ministers are spreading these stories and lying about the facts and how party special advisors are feeding the media frenzy in a previous blog post. No one here is suggesting that anyone be killed, but our government is focussed on ruthlessly cutting benefit costs along with healthcare and services, all while smiling and announcing that "the most vulnerable will be protected." Well the most vulnerable are having their benefits cut, being told to shit themselves rather than receiving help to get to the toilet, being told to find jobs when they can barely leave the house, losing their homes, and committing suicide. Many of those that aren't in that situation expect to be soon and many have talked of suicide. The policies of this government and the relentless abuse coming from newspapers have people living in fear - if what they fear hasn't already come to pass. In Nazi Germany the killing of sick and disabled people was at first kept well hidden away from any chance of public opposition. What plans are our politicians hiding from us? Is it their intention to force all sick and disabled people out on the streets where they will helpfully freeze to death? Quite honestly, I think that they don't even care as long as it's not their problem. I think it is completely fair to compare this demonisation of the sick and disabled to the start of the Nazi attack on the same.

This has been cross posted from the authors blog at


Daily Mail: Callous judges have sentenced Elaine to life without dignity (Daily Mail link. Yes, I was surprised too.)

DPAC: Elaine McDonald case: Court puts prisoners before the disabled

Purple noise: The beginning of the end (Warning, discusses suicide.)

Guardian: Jobcentre staff 'sent guidelines on how to deal with claimants' suicide threats'

Lib Dem Minister Washes Hands Over ESA Criticism

Steve Webb, the junior Liberal Democrat minister left in charge at the DWP while his Tory bosses are on holiday, has responded to the savage criticism (in oh-so-polite parliamentary language) of his department's handling of ESA figures by both the Select Committee on Work and Pensions and the UK Statistical Authority (which considered the situation bad enough it had to invoke its statutory powers to intervene), by writing to Dame Anne Begg, chair of the Select Committee.

Yet according to Dame Anne, his response addresses neither the criticism of the language used around the statistics, nor the use of the statistics, nor the Select Committee's call for DWP to discuss the use of the statistics with newspaper editors and did nothing to reassure her over the DWP's off-the-record briefings to newspapers - which leaves you wondering what he did address. Dame Anne described the letter as 'not satisfactory,' 'very short' and 'overly dismissive', while describing ministers as 'shrugging their shoulders'.

It seems the DWP treat the Select Committee with the same contempt they treat us!

See the article here by WWW.DisabilityNewService.Com for the full story.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

"Swimmer admits benefit fraud charge"

"Luckily I broke a rib so I won't be going swimming for a couple of weeks," is possibly one of the stranger sentences I have ever uttered. How could hearing a rib go "snap" upon bending down resulting in me being unable to partake of an activity that's good for me possibly be considered "lucky"?

This is how:

A benefits cheat who fraudulently claimed £25,000 in disability payments was caught out after being spotted going swimming on holiday.

I explored a lot of the issues in this post a few months ago, but in short: Swimming is good for me, it's good for keeping my skeleton as strong as possible and helps prevent things like ribs going snap when I bend down. And news stories like this make getting that vital exercise a terrifying prospect because they fuel vigilantism and make it likely that I'll get reported to the DWP accused of "faking" because I can swim a bit.*

I concluded that post in April with the paragraph:

Next year will the DWP be reviewing the entire Paralympic team using the television footage as "evidence" that the athletes are too fit to be disabled?

When actually what happened was something far more bizarre than that, something that I couldn't possibly have imagined: Atos will be designing and building the Paralympic website, as well as providing technology support during the games. As @SaliWho put it "satire is cancelled."

* = Emphasis retrospectively added as I'm gathering from the comments I wasn't sufficiently clear as to the main problem with this case. It's not about whether or not she was actually guilty, it's about the media convincing the general public that ill/disabled people who can swim must be faking. Apologies for my initial lack of clarity; I was a bit of a zombie yesterday after the aforementioned broken rib prevented me from finding a comfortable sleep position the night before so I was trying to function on only a couple of hours sleep.

Monday, 15 August 2011

DWP, The Dodgy Figures Come Home to Roost

The Welfare Reform Bill is the Department of Work and Pension’s flagship benefit reform, a major part of which is the axing of Disability Living Allowance in favour of Personal Independence Payment in order to allow a politically-mandated 20% plus cut in the number of people receiving it (as a historical parallel/reminder, ESA was originally supposed to generate an even smaller cut). The justification of the change was supposedly the 30% increase in people claiming DLA, a rise DWP ‘sources’ described as ‘inexplicable’. The Broken of Britain were challenging these figures as soon as they appeared last year, pointing out ‘The claim is made that DLA claims have risen by 30% in eight years – without accounting for population growth of 5% in this period, a pronounced demographic shift, and increased awareness of DLA.” Their protests, and those of others, were ignored, and the 30% growth was part of the justification used to convince MPs to vote for the Welfare Reform Bill as it passed through Parliament.

In February of this year, Declan Gaffney wrote an article for the prominent political blog Left Foot Forward entitled The ‘inexplicable’ rise in Disability Living Allowance explained’ In this article he points out that 36% of the growth (246,000 of 680,000) comes from people over retirement age, which is actually explained entirely by existing DLA recipients reaching retirement age as it isn’t possible to start a new DLA claim after retiring. And as DLA was only introduced in 1992 the number of people claiming it and then retiring will continue to grow for a number of years yet. So 36% of the ‘inexplicable’ increase is immediately explained by simple logic. He then points out that demographic change, the growth in the population and other related changes -- more simple logic, absolutely basic stuff for this kind of analysis, accounts for another 125,000, meaning we have now explained over half of the supposedly ‘inexplicable’ growth. The remainder does represent an increase in the rate at which DLA is received, but Gaffney goes further, noting that increases in the receipt of DLA by children are related primarily to Learning Disabilities and Mental Health, and can likely be explained by greater awareness, and now 71% of the ‘inexplicable’ growth has been explained. That leaves 199,000 cases to be explained, these are the working age cases which are actually relevant to the government’s argument, but, rather than 30%, they now represent 8%. Gaffney notes that the rate of new claims has actually dropped slightly, and the rate of claims ending has increased slightly, and speculates that this may relate to a historical rise in rates of disability in the ‘90s and that the figures are playing ‘catch up’. He also notes that the wording in the report is ‘almost designed to foster misinterpretation’, talking about the ‘subjectivity and complexity’ of claims, which is interesting wording indeed when you remember that ministers have been continually pushing the line that DLA is too ‘complex’.

Despite all of the arguments against it from Disabled People, groups such as Broken of Britain and Where’s the Benefit, and from disability charities and anti-cuts groups the Welfare Reform Bill has ground its way through the Commons and was all set to head into the Lords in July when at the last minute it was postponed until September. And then last week, on Monday, at the peak of the national crisis over the rioting, DWP released a new report, which Declan Gaffney has again dissected in an article for Left Foot Forward, DWP admits disability reform based on dodgy figures, as reported by Left Foot Forward He notes the growth figure has now dropped to 29%, while DWP now admit that the figures for recipients over 65 “distorts the overall picture of growth”. Correcting for that drops the growth to 23%, demographic changes drop that figure to 16%, Yet even as it admitted comprehensively screwing up the original figures, DWP was briefing its tame tabloid attack hacks, leading to the Daily Express claiming that ‘Handouts for Disability Soar by 185%’, as reported by the TUC’s Touchstone Blog which also notes that the population has aged as it increases, yet another reason for DLA claims to have increased, and that the increases are concentrated in the early years of the benefit, which was to be expected as DLA Lower Rate was a new benefit rather than a replacement for an existing one, and therefore would be expected to bring in a new population of claimants over a period of years, while also noting that what the tabloids reported as an incomprehensible rise in the number of young men in receipt of DLA was actually simply a rise in people first receiving it as children. In fact, the Touchstone article notes, the DLA statistics figures show a steadily declining rate of increase, with the latest figures representing the lowest rate of increase since the benefit was introduced.

So DWP has been caught using dodgy figures and logic and has owned up to it, problem solved? Not exactly, because the government has used that now unsupportable 30% figure as a substantial part of its justification for getting the Welfare Reform Bill through the House of Commons. MPs have been convinced that the Welfare Reform Bill was needed to stop an out-of-control disability benefit by that 30% figure, and it turns out that not only wasn’t 30% even the right figure, but the growth was built into DLA by the way it was designed and would have petered out in a few more years. Those MPs have taken that false argument and used it to justify their votes for the Welfare Reform Bill, and those votes can’t be taken back. In fact, but for the postponement of its date in the Lords, it wouldn’t just be MPs voting for the Bill based on dodgy figures, but Lords as well. And, as Declan Gaffney goes on to note, not only does that dodgy figure mean MPs have been misled, but it means the whole basis for replacing DLA with PIP has to be called into question, because if DWP hadn’t identified blatantly obvious reasons for the increase like people retiring, then it probably didn’t understand anything else about DLA, or the impact of the changes it proposed to make.

And then things turned even more dodgy. The regular Left Foot Forward commenter ‘Mason Dixon, Autistic’ was reading through the new report and noticed something odd about the dates, it was published on Monday 8th August, but it was signed off in May 2011. And of course May was when MPs were voting on the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill based on the 30% figure, while July, but for the postponement, was when the Lords would have voted on it, also based on the 30% figure, and now it has finally been released, three months late, and buried on the worst Bad News Day in recent memory. Left Foot Forward picked up his point and ran with it in a third story, Why did DWP delay releasing new data until after welfare reform bill cleared Commons? analysing the last quarter’s comparable releases from DWP and finding that with only one exception they are released in the same month they are signed off, and that exception is the one in which the DWP shows itself using dodgy figures to support a Bill passing through parliament. There is a very real suspicion that DWP have hidden figures that would have undermined the case for the Welfare Reform Bill and cast major questions over the preparation behind the Bill; while hiding those figures amounts to DWP having deliberately and consciously misled Parliament. Left Foot Forward have presented DWP with a string of questions over the delayed report, the preparation behind the changes to DLA and how Parliament was kept informed. The answers should be fascinating, if for nothing else than for watching DWP squirm, but potentially for so much more.

Nor is this the only problem the DWP is having with statistics. Having been savaged in a report by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions over its reporting of ESA related statistics and the headlines they relate to in the press, the DWP have this week been hauled before the government’s statistical headmaster and told that they had better pull their socks up. The chairman of the UK Statistics Authority has written to the chair of the Select Committee on Work and Pensions, telling them that, in his opinion as the official watchdog on government use of statistics, DWP have failed to reach an acceptable level of clarity in their reporting of ESA statistics. He specifically draws attention to the failure to make clear that people in the ESA Work Related Activity Group are not fit for work, and the similar failure to show the effect of the rate of successful appeals on the overall figures, and states that he is therefore invoking his statutory powers to require DWP to conform to the Code of Practice for Official Statistics in regard to reporting of these figures (astoundingly government statistics are not required to follow this code unless they are designated 'National Statistics' or UK Statistics Authority has exercised their authority to require it under the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, which is what they are doing here). His statement in the letter that ‘The presentation of statistical releases is the responsibility of departmental statisticians, not their Ministers.’ appears to be a direct message that ministers, and the political ‘Departmental Special Advisers’ (aka SPADs) should keep their political fingers out of DWP’s statistical reporting.

So not remotely a good week for DWP, but the question I’m personally starting to wonder about is at what point sheer incompetence, or politically directed misreporting, crosses the borders of legality to become subject to criminal charges of Misfeasance in Public Office.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Work Capability Assessment – Year 2 call for evidence

The Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment is calling for evidence. You can see some of what we have written about this assessment here, and I am sure that many of you will have plenty of your own stories.

Specifically, they are looking for "information that is relevant to how the Work Capability Assessment is operating and what further changes, if any, are needed to improve the process".

You can see the full call for evidence information at the DWP website, where you can download the call for evidence (pdf) and the response document (rtf). They say they will provide information in alternative formats, but that these "may take some time to prepare, so please let us know as soon as possible if they are required". Considering this is a call for information about an assessment for disabled people, you might assume that large print, Braille, audio, BSL or Easy Read formats would have been produced automatically, and the fact that they have not been suggests that they are only expecting contributors to be non-disabled professionals working in the sector. Some could even suggest that the two-month duration of the call for evidence being a relatively short time, and alternative formats of information taking "some time to prepare", that they are hoping to avoid the contributions of disabled benefit claimants, but I couldn't possibly comment on that!

It is vital that the Independent Inquiry looking into the Work Capability Assessment hears from disabled benefit claimants who have undergone this assessment, or have fears about the assessment. It is us who will be most affected by the WCA, so we must not let the inquiry only hear from ATOS assessors and DWP staff about the implementation and impact of the WCA, and "what further changes, if any, are needed to improve the process".

Monday, 1 August 2011

Conclude, then Survey, DWP at Their Finest

The DWP has just issued a report, Attitudes to health and work amongst the working-age population on the public's perception of work as 'good' for us. This report necessarily has to be viewed against the DWP's continuing campaign to portray being out of work as bad for you and explicitly references boosting support for Dame Carol Black's report (which says precisely that) as part of its aims.


You're conducting research on attitudes towards work as good for you, and one of your expressed objectives is to further the perception of work as good for you. Which part of Anthropology 101 and the danger of predetermining your findings did the author miss?

The danger with the piece is actually that the conclusions seem so reasonable and logical. I am implacably opposed to the position of the DWP, but even I would agree that in most cases work is good for you. And there is the rub, in most cases, not all. For some disabled people, work can be very clearly bad for you. in most cases is inapplicable to the use the DWP will likely put this report, as we can already see from their splash page for the release of the report here. That talks about 80% believing work is good for physical and mental health, with no caveats whatsoever, and that is not at all what the survey says.

There is a major problem in comparing even the expressed aim of the research and the questions asked. Anthropological/Sociological survey design is science in a minefield, just the difference between one word and another of similar meaning can potentially completely change the answers that are given. The survey asked do you think that paid work is generally good or bad for physical or mental health? (my italics, see remainder of paragraph for the reason behind the emphasis). This is so wide a question as to be almost meaningless. If it had been asked in conjuction with do you think that paid work is always good for physical or mental health? then we might have had a useful comparison for understanding how the public actually view long-term health issues and whether they understand that disability really can interfere with the ability to work. But it doesn't ask that, and we have to ask why that might be. And disturbingly, buried in the data tables, three appendices after the final conclusions, is the innocuous statement ‘Don’t know’ responses to questions were removed for this analysis.

It might be argued that I am being unfair to the author by only quoting part of the question above, but I've split it because I want to address the separate problems with the rest of it. The full question actually reads Doing paid work can affect physical or mental health both positively and negatively. Taking everything into account, do you think that paid work is generally good or bad for physical or mental health? Let's look at that initial, italicised, part of the question, because a big part of probing people's understanding is recognising whether they have a good enough grasp on the subject to validate their opinion. It says can affect physical or mental health both positively and negatively, but how many people understand what that negatively might mean? Let's take me as an example; my spinal condition means that working left me feeling like I had a second degree burn over most of my lower body on pretty much a daily basis, frequently in so much pain that I could barely string two thoughts together. Hands-up if you think the survey population considered the possibility of 'negative' effects on that level when answering the question? And if they didn't consider it, then doesn't that specifically mean we have to throw out any conclusions based on the question, particularly any attempt to use the results in relation to disability and long-term illness?

We then progress from bad to worse. The author sets out to compare attitudes to short and long term conditions, but her examples of long term conditions are as follows: The first long-term scenario asked respondents to imagine they were in paid work, had long-term back pain and were currently in a phase when their back was particularly sore. The second long-term scenario asked respondents to imagine they were in paid work, had long-term depression and were currently in a phase of feeling particularly down. Back pain and depression, the two disabilities which everyone is convinced they understand, and almost no one does. I have already described what my experience of back pain feels like, is sore really an adequate descriptor for the possible extent of disability we are discussing here? And where understanding is bad for back pain, it is far, far worse for depression. In fact the report itself acknowledges this limitation, but only in the very last paragraph of Appendix A.

The survey then goes on to look at whether people have gone into work when feeling ill, and notes that people with long term health conditions are more likely to have done this than those without. Unfortunately the questions fail to allow for the every-damn-day factor of long term disability. Someone without a long term health condition may not go into work with what they perceive as severe backache, because they'll be back at work in a couple of days, but if, like me, you experience a far more severe level of pain on a daily basis, then you have no option but to go in, because tomorrow will not be better, nor the day after that, nor... If I want to work, I have to go in no matter how I feel, because I feel severe pain every damn day! Yet at the same time as someone disabled may be more likely to have gone in, through lack of any alternative, they are also far more likely to recognise that pain or depression may make it impossible to work, but the questions fail to present them with the option to say that. (Notably several tables include data indicating as many as 1 in 8 participants have spontaneously insisted on answering 'it depends', clearly indicating that a significant number of participants recognised major structural problems with the questions they were being asked).

Participants were then probed as to why they worked while feeling unwell (assuming they had), but again the questions fall apart when looked at in the light of experience of different levels of sickness/disability and the reality of long term conditions. The answers are unavoidably individual and simply cannot be extended to the general case.

Next up was whether people might have pulled sickies and why (6% had), and I actually don't have any problems with this question, just as long as it doesn't turn up being used to claim anyone going sick is faking it (and this is the DWP, so all bets are off).

The questions then move on to whether GPs and Employers should have an input into how long someone is off sick, with a disturbing 53% thinking employers should have a role. Again the issue of truly understanding the question arises and I suspect the 53% who think employers should have a say are people who have never faced an Occupational Health department who are part of the problem rather than part of the cure.

There is one very interesting breakdown that comes out of this section: Respondents with long-standing illness, disability or infirmity which did not limit activities were also much less likely (46 per cent) to agree that employers should have a say when compared to respondents with no long-standing illness, disability or infirmity (54 per cent). (my italics). As a first point this does suggest that experience of disability significantly changes views on how useful it is to involve OH in sickness for the worse, but as a second point, isn't which did not limit activities an absolutely fascinating qualification?

A string of questions then follow based on asking for help in the back pain and depression scenarios and the likelihood of getting it. All of the previous caveats apply, people who are not disabled are likely to severely underestimate the degree of disability potentially involved and are unlikely to have an educated understanding of possible employer attitudes to requesting reasonable adjustments. It isn't that the questions are invalid, rather that the survey population are incompetent (in a non-pejorative sense) to answer them, and this means that the conclusions absolutely cannot be used to represent a general case. Similar concerns apply to a following set of questions on the help expected from GPs.

A question on whether colleagues come into work when sick, which is reasonable, is then followed by a final question on whether colleagues call in sick when not sick. 'Objection, M'lud! Calls for speculation on the part of the witness.'

The report then moves on to its conclusions section and quickly states: To see improvements we would expect the percentages who agree (that work is good for you) to increase. The preset thinking that work is universally good for you is all too apparent and again casts major questions over the entire survey structure and the independence of its conclusions.

Amidst some relatively innocuous conclusions is a statement that: Far more respondents agreed that GPs should advise them (not to work) under the back pain scenario when compared to the depression scenario. No attention is drawn to the poor, if not downright biased, understanding of depression in the general population.

Alarmingly the report then states: the information will be of use as the health work and well-being agenda develops more widely. It also provides information that will be of use as the Government develops its plans for healthcare reform and also reforms to welfare benefits. Welfare benefits here undoubtedly refers to disability benefits, yet I have just demonstrated that the entire findings of the report are completely inapplicable to questions of disability due to the structure of the survey population and the inappropriate nature of the question design.

The conclusions then state: The findings are broadly positive and show that the health benefits of work are widely recognised among the working-age population That something is believed is not the same as it being positive. Much of the population once believed that the world was flat, that was a workable approximation if you never got more than five miles from the place you were born, but not exactly one we would now call positive. We now have the subtlety of understanding that tells us that the world can be considered flat over short distances, but over longer ones we must recognise that it is round. Similarly, the population may believe work is good for you, but we need them to understand the subtler distinction that work is good for most people, but for a significant number of people with disabilities, work is actually bad for them. Only that subtler understanding may genuinely be labelled positive, and that is not what the survey has measured.

Moving into the appendices, in Appendix A a worrying statement is made that: An initial set of survey questions was drafted by Health, Work and Well-being (HWWB) analysts and revised following discussion and consultation with policy colleagues and analysts from ONS, Independent Social Research (ISR), Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Department of Health (DH), Scottish Government and Welsh Government. There appears to have been no independent review of the questions from outside of government, most particularly from Disabled People's Organistions or disability specialists in academia, and yet, as I have hopefully demonstrated, with only an interested amateur's knowledge of anthropology/sociology surveying, though considerable knowledge of disability, it is all too easy to raise major questions over the entire structure of the survey. Concern must also come from the attaching of the DWP survey to the ONS's omnibus survey, which could potentially confer stature on the DWP survey through association.

The appendices also note that around 35% of selected individuals declined to take part and that results have been weighted to reflect the absence of these individuals. No consideration is given to the potential that some of these individuals may have declined to take part specifically because their experience of DWP behaviour and use of statistics towards disabled people causes them to profoundly distrust the motivation and lack of bias within DWP, and that their answers to the questions might not have reflected the general distribution within their geographical/age/sex based sub-groups.

To reduce the problems with the report to an analogy that might be more generally accessible to non-disabled people, it's as though Nature had asked 2000 random people whether the Universe's 'missing mass' was best explained by a) the Higgs Boson, b) another WIMP, c) String Theory, d) the Cosmological Constant, or e) all of the above; and then published it as serious astrophysical research. Being able to offer an opinion is not the same as being able to offer an informed opinion and the conclusions of the survey can only be used within the scope of that limitation.

In the author's defence, the report states she has now moved on to work for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, strongly suggesting she is not a disability specialist and may genuinely not have recognised the weakness of her questions, but that excuses her, not the findings of her report and raises the further question of whether the DWP has any understanding of the scientific concept of independent peer review and why it is an absolute necessity?

Based on previous behaviour from the DWP we have to expect the likelihood that the findings will soon be mis-cited in support of a new set of attacks aimed at people with long term spinal conditions and/or clinical depression, implying that we should all be able to work through them and not need to access disability benefits, no matter that the overall structure and experience of the survey population renders them completely inappropriate to cast judgement on people with disabilities and that serious questions must be raised over the independence of the conclusions given the clear flaws in the survey design.