Saturday 25 November 2017

Paul Lewis apologises. Tony (also from 'Money Box') absolves him and hands him five 'Hail Mary's.

Not Martin Lewis

The BBC's bad month when it comes to their reputation for accurate reporting surely reached its nadir this week when Money Box on Radio 4 rightly found itself on the receiving end of a sharp tongue-bashing from both Houses of Parliament.

It must be said though that today's Money Box was exemplary when it comes to 'fessing up and apologising for its mistake (though note the little sting in the tail at the very end).

Only a full transcript will do:

Tony: Hang on a minute, Paul. Before you move on from the subject of Universal Credit we need to discuss this. This is the Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke in the House of Commons on Thursday:
David Gauke: I saw that report on Money Box. It was confused. It was misleading in its alarmist tone. It was inaccurate in the numbers it was using.
TonyTwo hours later in the House of Lords Baroness Buscombe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Work and Pensions, was asked a question about unjustified criticism of Universal Credit, and this is how she replied:
Baroness Buscombe: Indeed. I think my noble friend is referring to the Money Box programme with Paul Lewis where they said 100,000 people would not receive something over Christmas. That is so wrong. My Lords, we are looking to Money Box at the moment to actually correct that, to apologise. I've always put a lot of trust in that programme, and I say this loudly and clearly to Paul Lewis: Now the jury is out.
TonySo the jury is out Paul, and we haven't even heard from your defence.
Paul Lewis: No. Thanks Tony, Well, last week I did say that up to 100,000 people might end up receiving reduced Universal Credit or even no Universal Credit at all over Christmas. Now if Money Box gets something wrong we admit it, and, in fact, it's not as many as that number. So I have to plead guilty to that.
Tony: And how did that happen?
Paul Lewis: Well, first I assumed that the income assessment period, that determines the amount of Universal Credit claimants get, I assumed it was the same for everyone - a calendar month, so the 1st or the 30th of the month or whatever. Now I don't know why I assumed that because I have to say colleagues on the Money Box team told me that wasn't right. But if Universal Credit did work like that then all claimants paid weekly would be affected over Christmas because there are five Fridays in December. Now the fact is the assessment period is different for everyone. It's determined by the day you apply for Universal Credit, and normally lasts a full 30 or 31 days after that.
Tony: So claimants can have five weekly pay packets in one monthly assessment period which will reduce their Universal Credit entitlement?
Paul Lewis: Exactly. but it doesn't coincide necessary with the calendar month. It will happen to all of them four times a year but exactly when depends on when their assessment period started. So some people will undoubtedly receive less Universal Credit  over Christmas and New Year, but by no means all of them.
Tony: So how many?
Paul Lewis: Well, the 100,000 figure I used wasn't accurate. That was calculated from Resolution Foundation statistics about the number of weekly-paid working people coming onto Universal Credit rather than those on it now. In fact Department for Work and Pensions tells us now it's around 67,000 who are paid weekly and also get Universal Credit. Now they will have five weekly pay packets for four months out of the 12 months in the year. So it's reasonable to assume a third of them will be affected in any one month and, in fact, the Department told us yesterday it's 25,000 people who will be affected in December. Most of them will get some benefit but less than usual. So that's it, Tony. If you were on the the jury what would you say?
Tony: I'd say guilty of some mistakes, but you have apologised, so I recommend a week's detention and bring your Universal Credit homework!
Paul Lewis: Yes, I've been doing that all week, and apologies to anyone on Universal Credit who was in any way unnecessarily alarmed. The DWP says people with questions about their claim can ask a question via their online journal, speak to their own work coach or call the Universal Credit Helpline - and that number is on our BBC Money Box website. The DWP also stressed that the Universal Credit system is working as it should. People who earn more in a month get less benefit, and it stresses that even if their benefit is less their total income will actually be more in the run-up to Christmas, though I have to say advice charities tell us this variability makes budgeting on a low income very difficult.

I thought it especially nice that 'Tony' from Money Box, despite finding Paul Lewis guilty, then gave him credit for apologising. 

Wouldn't it be lovely if, whenever we get something wrong at work, one of our friends and teammates (preferably lower down the pecking order) would publicly salute us for apologising (preferably in front of as many people as possible)? If they were paid to do so though, it wouldn't be as gratifying. 


  1. I don't accept that was an apology. That was a Fake Apology. What's the actual beef? I don't get it. In a long month they get less per week. Is that it? Big deal. Are the BBC arguing they should get paid more than those paid monthly? And anyway, late November is more of an expensive time really than after mid December. This story was simply part of a BBC feeding frenzy as the pack try to take down the Government.

    1. To your last, rather a nasty complement to the ongoing efforts to turn that Iranian lady into a martyr to 'get' Boris, and the ongoing attempt to turn the Independent's flat out false reporting on fluffy bunnies being boiled by Tories into a 'no smoke without fire' the noble side of social media has every right to still prod.


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