Tag Archives: statistics

Out of the shadows

One of my favourite columnists, Ian Dunt, has written a great article on the grumpy reception of the UCL immigration report in some quarters and the fact that escapes so many immigration miserabilists:

“The weight of the evidence on the economic benefit of immigration is now so substantive that the debate can be laid to rest. This country is spectacularly lucky. We get people at the point in their life when they are net contributors, skip the bit at the beginning of their lives where you actually have to educate them, and very often the bit at the end where they cost the state in medical care. Meanwhile, our own older people leave Britain to go live in Spain in their hundreds of thousands, at precisely the stage of life where they are about to cost the state more. The fact Britain could be such a winner from this situation and still complain about it is testament to the stubborn negativity of many people on this island.”

Dunt identifies that the economic argument for migration is more or less settled now. And perhaps things are about to get interesting, as those staunchly opposed to immigration are left to talk about what really bothers them: difference. Danny Finklestein hinted at this a few weeks ago in the Times, as have a few other commentators.

“Without the economics to fall back on, anti-immigration campaigners, politicians and newspapers want to make up the facts. Instead, they should show some honour and fall back on the real argument that motivates them: cultural purity. There is no shame or offence in arguing that they do not want all these foreign cultures coming and changing the social landscape in the UK. It is a valid point to make and not a racist one. But let them argue it, rather than pretend it is about the economy. Economically, their policy proposal would do this country extraordinary harm. It’s up to them to show that the cultural benefits would be worth it.”

It may not be racist to talk about immigration or to feel uncomfortable about it – but we’re rarely honest about what exactly does cause that unease.


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Sky News on Welfare

…is surprising hard-hitting.

A great post from Ed Conway: “How the Government is Misleading us with its Definition of Welfare, and Why it Matters.

To be fair, this isn’t anything new. DWP has so many priors when it comes to abuse of statistics that I am weak thinking about it – and the government is more than happy to use this misreporting to advance its ideologically-drive austerity drive, but still, it’s heartening to have such a straightforward piece on this ahead of the personal tax breakdown statement that we’ll all be receiving soon. In the style of the excellent fact-checking statistics programme on BBC, More or Less:

“So-called “social protection” actually accounted for a total of £251bn last year – some 37% of the Government’s total spending. Surprising as this might sound, a mere £4.9bn of this was unemployment benefits – only 0.7% of the total governmental spending bill. In fact, the biggest chunk of all was the state pension, which was either 15.2% or 12.1% of total spending, depending on who you ask (we’ll get onto that in a moment). Some £37bn, or 5.5% of total spending, was disability and injury-related benefits. 2.4% was child benefits and 3.8% was housing benefits.

But this category also includes personal social services – in other words social work and social care. These may well fit the definition of “social protection” but don’t seem entirely synonymous with welfare. They are certainly not handouts.”

Business as usual at the DWP then.

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Ten Months, over Ten Thousand dead

Ten months. 10,600 people dead. In an article in Big Issue in March, “Atos, Death and Welfare Cuts”Adam Forrest explores the impact of the Atos’ workplace assessments on the disabled. There are stories of people who are classified as fit to work and have their benefits revoked, only to die months later. Worse, many of them, some of whom have their stories highlighted in the article, suffered immense distress at the assessment process and the withdrawal of their benefits.

“I’m not blaming Atos for her death. She died because of a collapsed lung and blood clots after a medical procedure. But I pitied the way Linda was made to feel and I still feel very, very frustrated at the way she was treated.”

The numbers are stark:

“Government statistics indicate that between January 2011 and November 2011, 10,600 sick and disabled people died within six weeks of their benefit claim ending. Such was the furore about this figure, the DWP has stopped using Atos data to count the number of deaths.”

I’m glad that Atos is being made to feel the heat but they are just contractors. The blame lies squarely at the feet of IDS and the DWP, who have set the policy. I don’t understand how he has been allowed to remain in post while Universal Credit is a disaster, his IT system is an expensive mess and things like these assessments and bedroom tax are causing distress for so many vulnerable people, many of them disabled.

A society should be judged on how we treat those in most need. The fact that we (through our government) are squeezing those in need till the pips squeak while proferring tax cuts for those who are better off just beggars belief. Caitlin Moran tweeted the article earlier, followed by a series of tweets that basically sums this up for me:

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Learning Curve

Three immigration stories that caught my eye in the last week: 

ONE This came up during my twitter conversation @WritersofColour discussing immigration when a University professor flagged her concerns about acting as a de facto border agent on behalf of UKBA. In a letter this week to the Guardian from academics raised some pretty alarming issues with what they’re being asked to do, including sharing emails and other sensitive information about international students: 

Academics are being asked to monitor attendance and in some cases potentially to share emails with UKVI, said Mette Berg, of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University. “We have a duty of care towards our students, and there is an issue about this undermining the trust between tutor and student. We are not there to be proxy border police.”

A poll I saw a month or so ago showed that international students no longer feel welcome in the UK – at a time when Universities need their money more than ever. Among other things, students ought to be taken out of the net migration target. The Lib Dems might adopt this policy at their Spring Conference, but (and I know this is cynical, forgive me) I’m sure they’ll drop it in a heartbeat depending on which way the wind blows in (the next?) coalition.

TWO Hugh Muir (love him long time) wrote an interesting little sidenote on immigration post World War I, which goes to show that history is cyclical:

“Black labour had been welcomed, especially at sea, but “when the armistice was signalled on 11 November 1918, the wartime boom for black labour fizzled out as quickly as it had begun”. The cry instead was too many foreigners; British jobs for British workers. Black jobseekers were shunned and the complicit Ministry of Labour resolved not to tell them about benefits to which they were entitled. Destitute, they were targeted. By 1919, there were violent mob attacks in Liverpool, Cardiff and London.”

THREE A great article in the Guardian about the Home Office’s ongoing suppression of migration reports that contain inconvenient truths. This government has form in this regard (*slow hand clap for the Department of Work and Pensions*) but the article cuts to the heart of the debate, such as there is one:

“The evidence to support a rational case against migration is crumbling away. That makes countering the irrational one even tougher. But the really challenging piece of evidence, which can’t be analysed away, is that not talking about it just stokes it up some more.”

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Last week the government wanted a visa bond for UK tourists.

Today a letter leaked to the Times reveals they want to encourage more foreign school kids to study here and charge them handsomely for the privilege, despite an already acute shortage of school places.

Britain is allegedly open to “the brightest and the best” but the visa system is increasingly complex. However, they’re smoothing the way for the mobile rich elite because the assumption is that if you’re rich enough, apparently, that automatically makes you bright, the best and worthy. (You may never actually pay tax here and contribute anything but let’s not let logic interrupt a good run of populist nonsense)

Meanwhile, a crackdown on student visas to meet the arbitrary “tens of thousands” immigration target means that the kids that come to school here will find it hard to get a student visa for university, despite paying above the odds for both primary and higher education. What’s the incentive to sink money into UK plc and subsidise British schools and universities?

Would the real government immigration policy please stand up?

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

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Suicide in the UK: questioning ourselves

Suicide rates in the UK are on the rise. According to The Lancet , in a blog whose title I borrow here, suicide rates for 2011 show an increase of  437 deaths compared to the year before. The Lancet blog cited figures from the Office of National Statistics. Their main findings are as follows:

  1.  In 2011 there were 6,045 suicides in people aged 15 and over in the UK, an increase of 437 compared with 2010.
  2. The UK suicide rate increased significantly between 2010 and 2011, from 11.1 to 11.8 deaths per 100,000 population.
  3. There were 4,552 male suicides in 2011 (a rate of 18.2 suicides per 100,000 population) and 1,493 female suicides (5.6 per 100,000 population).
  4. The highest suicide rate was in males aged 30 to 44 (23.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011).
  5. The suicide rate in males aged 45 to 59 increased significantly between 2007 and 2011 (22.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011).
  6. Female suicide rates were highest in 45 to 59-year-olds in 2011 (7.3 deaths per 100,000 population)

What’s alarming about this is that it supports anecdotal observations by a number of people, including Railway Chaplains. Last year, I began to notice that barely a week went by without a major train delay on the train line in my area. Sometimes it was just the usual technical hiccups, but there were a few weeks towards the end of winter when they announced that a person was under a train regularly. When Channel 4’s Jon Snow was delayed on a train on my line for that very reason, he blogged about it. (Another good blog on the topic is this one by Owen Jones from December last year)

One day, when my station was shut temporarily after someone jumped, there were some lovely Samaritans there handing out numbers for people to call for counselling. I spoke to one of the volunteers, who told me that the previous Friday alone across the London network there were 5 suicides. I later contacted the Railway Chaplain for the area, who told me that though the numbers for railway suicides aren’t collated offcially, he had begun to track the numbers himself and was alarmed at the rise.  In terms of the railways at least, TFL and the Samaritans have a project to tackle the issue, but as the Lancet blog points out, these worrying figures require a holistic policy response.

The Railway Chaplain confirmed the ONS findings that the victims are mostly men. On the railways, the tragedy is compounded because the emergency crews who have to clean up are affected by it, as are the train drivers, and anyone who sees the person jump, not to mention the person’s family and friends.

I remember arriving at my station one evening just as people came streaming up the stairs away from the platform. Many were crying, grown men were shaking. Someone had jumped, the police had been called, the train had hit the person and no one knew what to do.

Much like the economy, there is a lag with statistics. I worry that the statistics for 2012 may be worse still.

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