Let’s start the New Year with some hopeful news

140101appeal

The Information Commissioner and the Department of Work and Pensions will have to defend, before a tribunal, their decision to refuse my Freedom of Information request on claimant mortality.

Readers will recall that this blog, along with others, has been trying to use official channels to secure publication of the number of people who died while going through the claim process for Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance during 2012.

This process has been drawn out beyond reason; the first request for the information was made before that year ended, and it is now 2014. First, the DWP flatly refused to provide any information, saying it had no intention to publish the figures – this was despite having published a statistical release on claimant deaths in 2011. Then, after I submitted a FoI request, the claim was that it was “vexatious”, and I had launched an “orchestrated” campaign “deliberately designed to irritate or harass the department and/or disrupt its business” – all based on a line at the end of the Vox Political article on the subject, in which I suggested readers who felt strongly about it might like to submit a FoI request of their own.

The Information Commissioner upheld the DWP’s decision, claiming that the most significant factor in his decision was that “the complainant runs an on-line blog in which the main focus is the DWP and their ‘cover-up’ on the number of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died in 2012”. This is clearly unsupportable, as would be clear to anybody glancing through the blog.

In this context, it is my pleasure to announce that HM Courts and Tribunals Service has accepted my notice of appeal and a hearing will be held, with all parties present, between the end of March and mid-May, 2014. The date has yet to be confirmed.

While this has been going on, Michael Meacher MP has submitted a Parliamentary Question on the same subject (you can read about it on his blog). If he succeeds in getting the information before I can, I still intend to go ahead with the appeal.

It is important that government departments should not believe they can crush a legitimate request for information that is a matter of pubilc interest by playing fast and loose with the Freedom of Information Act.

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17 thoughts on “Let’s start the New Year with some hopeful news

  1. Pingback: Let's start the New Year with some hopeful news...

  2. 23knowersark

    excellent news and good work – I’ve tried a few FOI’s myself. They teally don’t like being made to do things. I’d even advocate the use of FOI’s as a useful campaigning tool

  3. Joseph Smith

    Well done Mike, however, I’m very uncertain and suspicious that the courts are not as independent from government as the government would like us to believe. In particular, I suspect that this corrupt coalition exerts undue influence on any and every organisation and individual it feels is even the remotest threat to its Fascist plans and ideals. I’m certain you will be aware of this but felt that by not saying anything I’d be assisting the Fascist pigs in coalition. Hopefully you will get a court which is independent and has a two fingered gesture to any government interference. Best of luck, we will be interested in what the puppet liars from the DWP have to whilst on oath.

  4. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    Congratulations, Mike, and a happy New Year to you and yours.

    The Information Commissioner still has not ruled on my complaint nor provided me with an update on its progress.

    I will ask the Work & Pensions Committee to bring up this matter at its February meeting, since they did not do so at its prior December 2013 session.

    Ill health may force me to terminate my advocacy on behalf of Britain’s sick and disabled, so it’s important that you carry on the fight. I wish you all the best!

  5. AfterAtosAssessment (@AfterAtosAssess)

    Well Done. But amazing their defence was that you ran an online blog and campaign trying to find out how many disabled had died in 2012 during dwp and esa assessment process. How can that be a defence, it is the whole ruddy point. Govt is accountable to the people that is why we have regular statistics and FOI.

  6. Joan Barker

    Thats brilliant news for 2014 well done love xxxxxx I suspect the death rates have gone sky high and duncan smith etc are 2 scred to make em public there will be a national outcry……I want to see them in court for crimes against humanity nd genocide

  7. Pingback: Let’s start the New Year with some hopefu...

  8. Joseph Smith

    It should not matter who makes the request, FOI is there for everyone. So exactly what are the DWP scared of? It seems to me,
    in view of the DWPs cowardly reticence in denying production of the information that there is probably a much bigger problem than we suspect, I suspect senior people in the DWP are getting scared of the public exposure and the inevitable savage public backlash which will adversely affect well paid careers. I suspect also that Cameron in particular will apportion blame ( as the Fascist smith has on several occasions already) and walk away, for Cameron and many more in the coalition, deniability is a secondary career as well as an art form as is their lying, cheating, stealing, fraud self.promotion etc. seems also they are running scared so keep the pressure on these scum.

  9. johndeee

    Well done Mike.

    You may remember that I was one of those who also wrote and asked (NOT an FOI request) for the mortality figures but was denied. If you think that I might be in any way useful in providing evidence (for example, that I / we do/did not constitute an organised single-issue pressure group) then please feel free to contact me.

    Judging from the govt’s reaction – this issue must be one that they seriously don’t want any attention paid – I’m convinced the figures are far worse than we can imagine.

    Has anyone considered asking the coroners to report suicides where benefit denial might be suspected to have played a part? I seem to remember hearing of the same action (by journalists?) relating to ex servicemens’ suicides regarding PTSD (Dispatches?).

    Also, I was wondering whether it might be worth asking Rachel Rolnick (UN Special Rapporteur who had much to say about the Bedroom Tax) or some other official at the UN, whether witholding these figures might be a breach of human rights? 

    ‘Thanks in advance for keeping us updated…

    1. Mike Sivier

      I know that the UN is fully aware of the situation; there has been concern that people in the UK should exhaust all legal avenues domestically before that organisation steps in, so we must be close to that now.

      Regarding coroners, I’m not sure.

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