DWP is still refusing to reveal how many people its policies have KILLED

140113FoI

What does Iain Duncan Smith have to hide? That is the obvious question.

With a general election coming up in May, it seems clear that the Conservatives intend to guard any figures that reveal the failure of their policies jealously.

In this instance, it seems likely they are also perverting the course of justice. Failure to act in order to prevent deaths caused by the actions of an organisation like the Department for Work and Pensions is a crime.

So what is the DWP really saying? “We’re going to keep these murderous policies. We like that they are killing these people. We want them to keep killing these people – and you’re not going to stop us.”

Does that about cover it?

You see, an email arrived at Vox Towers yesterday from the DWP’s Freedom of Information people. It upheld a decision to refuse a request made by this writer all the way back on May 28, 2014. Yes – that’s nearly nine months ago.

The reason the request was refused is as follows: “I can confirm that we do hold some information which can be used to answer most of your queries however as we also intend to publish this information it is exempt from disclosure under section 22 of the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act]. I can also confirm that we do not have a definite publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements

“The exemptions in Part II of the FOIA, such as exemption 22, are known as ‘absolute’ or ‘qualified’ exemptions. If an absolute exemption applies, the information can be withheld without any public interest assessment. If the exemption is a qualified one, the public authority must weigh the public interest in maintaining the exemption against the public interest in disclosure. This is the public interest test. The exemption relating to information which is intended for future publication – section 22 of the FOIA – is a qualified exemption and its use therefore requires a public interest assessment. The Department intends to publish the information you seek and the established publication process will apply once a date is settled.”

This is what the DWP has been telling people since mid-2013.

The last information released on this subject is now more than three years out-of-date – and revealed that a horrifying 10,600 people had died while going through the claim process for Employment and Support Allowance between January and November 2011.

That is to say, four people were dying every three hours or so.

Who knows how many thousands – how many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands (remember, the draconian Welfare Reform Act was passed in February 2012, making matters much worse for benefit claimants with illnesses or disabilities) have died since then?

The point of publishing statistics in a regular basis is to ensure that the system is running properly and the DWP is adhering to its duty of care in preventing deaths that could have been prevented. Clearly the DWP has been derelict in that duty – otherwise, why hide the figures?

Guidelines by the Information Commissioner’s Office show that the date of publication does not need to be definite for the DWP to apply a section 22 exemption. However, there are certain rules that apply:

  • There will be some information that is compiled as part of a scheduled procedure which includes a planned publication date” – that does not apply in this case as there is no planned publication date.
  • “The date of publication of other material may be less certain, for example: “A deadline may be provided, but publication could be at any time before then;” – no deadline has been provided.
  • “Publication will take place once an information gathering exercise has been completed;” – the information is gathered routinely and is available now.
  • “Or by reference to other related events” – there are no other related matters that have bearing on the publication of this information.

To cut a long story short, the DWP is breaking the rules by refusing to provide the information.

After the DWP refused the May 2014 FoI request – a refusal that, itself, broke the law as it was months late – a call for reconsideration was sent out on August 31, 2014. It is this call that was answered yesterday – nearly six months after it was sent, and nearly nine months after the original request was made.

Does anybody think perhaps the DWP has been stalling for time, in the hope that this would run on until after the 2015 general election.

In early October, when it became clear that the DWP’s reconsideration process was not happening, the Information Commissioner was contacted for a judgement on the matter. It seems his officers are still working on this matter. Perhaps they are also stalling. Now, why would that be?

In the event of a judgement against the request, the intention was to take the matter to an information tribunal. Vox Political has done this before, over the now-infamous ‘vexatious’ FoI request of 2013. That case was only lost on a point of law and the tribunal’s report was that its members were “sympathetic” to the requester.

It seems unlikely that there will be time for that now.

Perhaps the Information Commissioner’s Office will decide against the DWP, and that organisation will be forced to divulge the information it has guarded so ardently since November 2011. Before the general election? This seems unlikely.

Perhaps it is time for some of us to speak out about this in more public arenas.

Your thoughts are invited.

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33 thoughts on “DWP is still refusing to reveal how many people its policies have KILLED

  1. jeffrey davies

    if it gets out rtu ids will be lynched from the nearest tree but will the people realise he has taken the lives of so many through his policies of abuse jeff3

  2. Mr.Angry

    Is there nothing the UN can do at this stage as surely there is a definite violation of human rights to which we are a member state, this seems unacceptable as the UN have been made aware. Or is the case of the tiger without teeth yet again a department set up and financed with European funds?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The UN doesn’t have European funds, but the “tiger without teeth” question is good.

  3. nick

    IDS won’t stop what he started and the situation will get worse if re elected at the next election in which he personally will

  4. Ian Jd Andrews

    no surprises here, this information will be hidden until after the election (if Labour win) the the Tories will blame Labour as per usual – or god forbid if the Tories win then it will be buried forever

  5. M de Mowbray

    I doubt that the UN would take any action or discuss in public anything that concerns a “democratically” elected government, or more accurately a decidedly anti-democratic coalition given power by a democratic process, unless there was genuine and demonstrable proven genocide being undertaken by that “government”. My hope is that once this supremely arrogant, divisive and grossly incompetent regime is bootd out, then perhaps they will take action. I imagine that since they started investigating this government a couple of years ago, they probably have been compiling evidence, and hopefully massaging statistics and refusing to answer questions might add to the evidence of Manslaughter charges at least.

  6. Dave Lyne

    Mike, the link below is the original promise from DC back in 2010 on his promise of greater transparency.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/letter-to-government-departments-on-opening-up-data

    I know the coalition pass laws and acts retrospectively so my apologies if I’ve missed previous comments on the transparency issue or they’ve pretended this promise was never made.

    After reading the link, does the Public Sector Transparency Board still exist and, if they are accountable for implementing transparency across government depts. and setting right to data in conjunction with the Ministry of Justice, could they not be approached on this matter?

    Based on your reasonable comments and the bs you have received in response to foi, I fail to see how they could justify non transparency on this very important point that the public need to know.

  7. jamdog

    We all need to collectively think how we can get George duncan smith banged up!! This b*****d has the deaths of thousands on its dirty hands!! Including my lifelong neighbour!! Enjoy looking over your shoulder till the day you f***ing die you sponging balled lying f***!

  8. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    One remedy in situations like this is to issue a writ of mandamus (Latin for “I command”) it is used to compel a government agency to either do something they should do or to stop doing something they shouldn’t be doing…

    A petition for writ of mandate, also commonly known as a petition for a writ of mandamus, is a document filed with a court that requests an order directing a governmental agency or representative to perform a required function. In the alternative, a petition for writ of mandate can be filed seeking a court to order a governmental agency or representative to stop doing something that it has no legal authority to do in the first instance.

  9. Steve

    I remember when Conservative majoritarian governments were more principled than this. It seems extraordinary to me that IDS, Freud and McVey are so hell-bent on driving through their “reforms” that when the changes go wrong, making sick people even worse to the point of dying in some cases and driving hundreds of thousands into grinding poverty, that they would actually hide the evidence which indicates this and press ahead regardless of the harm they are causing.

    I cannot imagine any previous post-war Tory government behaving like this before the advent of David Cameron. I could not even imagine the late Margaret Thatcher being so slipshod, morally bankrupt and deliberately cruel.

  10. Michele Witchy Eve

    A friend of mine very recently landed their first full-time job (despite heroic efforts) after years of looking and trying. They were recently in a conversation with their wealthy employer about life on benefits. After my friend explained, in great detail, exactly what efforts are expected from those on benefits and what happens if a claimant fails, in even the most minor way, my friend’s employer was genuinely unaware and then appalled by what he learned. This employer is in a position to have his thoughts listened to by a wider and presently blinded audience. We can hope he speaks out. Each of us has to educate and pass on the truth, wherever and however we can, even if it is one person at a time.

    Some of us are prevented by gagging laws, and our association with affected agencies, from being too public about our political thoughts and leanings in the run-up to this election – but the truth is the truth and a-political. Time to publish and be damned.

    Thank you Mike.

    1. Shaun-128

      Steve, I totally agree with your comment. The role of individuals informing others of the atrocities carried out by this government is paramount. This should have two consequences: most people will be disturbed by the reality of England under the Tories and secondly, when they realise the disconnect between what they read in our partisan newspapers and the truth told by people they know it will reduce the power of those who use the media as a vehicle for getting out dogma; rather, than as a source of fact-based news. This is particularly important as a democracy is dependant upon the knowledge and insight of the electorate so that the electorate can select the best policies and know how well they are being implemented.

  11. jaypot2012

    My own son didn’t know what was going on until I showed him the pages to read, the blogs, the letters, the written experiences – he would never vote Tory anyway, but he now tells others who will listen to him, about what he has learned and he sends them to investigate the same way if they want to. Many of his friends and colleagues are appalled at what is really going on in the UK today.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m very much in favour of this.
      It seems the only way to get the message out to people is one at a time, thanks to the silence of the mass media; so be it.

  12. Janet

    I sent in an FOI request regarding sanction statistics for Universal Credit claimants. It was refused, just yesterday, for these same spurious “public interest” reasons. Time something was done, what is IDS hiding and what has he got on Cameron, that DC is too afraid to sack him? Anyone else this incompetent would have been removed a long time ago.

  13. Gary Martin

    I have asked similar FOI requests and been turned down, just forwarded this and mine to Stephen Timms and the Mirror newspaper….

  14. jamdog

    Judicial Review Into DWP’s Disabled Benefits ‘Fiasco’
    Legal Experts Say Vulnerable People ‘Left In Lurch’ By Delays In Vital Payments

    25/02/2015

    Expert lawyers have been given the green light to launch a judicial review into the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP’s) system for providing essential payments to disabled families, on behalf of vulnerable people who have been “left in the lurch” and have faced waits of up to 13 months for vital support.

    Irwin Mitchell’s specialist public lawyers have been granted permission for the legal challenge in relation to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), after hearing numerous first-hand accounts from those who have faced serious financial hardship after experiencing delays in receiving the funds.

    Introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance from April 2013, PIP is designed to help disabled adults to meet extra costs as a result of disability, including basic essentials such as food, heating and transport.

    While the DWP estimated the process for applying for payments would take just two and a half months, of the 529,400 claimants who had registered for PIP assessments between April 2013 and July 2014 only 206,000 had received a final determination. This means that more than 300,000 applicants who applied since April 2013 were still awaiting a determination by the end of July 2014.

    The problems with the scheme were described by Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge in June last year as “nothing short of a fiasco”, while the delays were also discussed at a Department for Work and Pensions Committee meeting in January.

    Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team, which has already successfully helped seven people to obtain decisions on PIP after launching legal action on their behalf, have now been given permission to launch a judicial review with the aim of improving the system for others affected. The action is on the grounds that delays of more than six months amount to a failure to reach a decision in reasonable time.

    Anne-Marie Irwin We are delighted to have been given permission to ensure that the voices of thousands of disabled people can finally be heard on this issue.

    “While we have helped a number of clients obtain decisions on PIP, it is worrying that the DWP’s approach has been to fast-track those who are taking legal action but not address the situation for the many people who continue to face delays and – as a result – are unable to pay for essentials such as food and heating.

    “This has left our clients struggling to cope financially, with the strain and stress of these issues having a significant impact on their health and wellbeing.

    “Simply too many people have been left in the lurch as a result of these issues and we hope that our legal challenge will lead to the vital improvements that are needed to ensure that disabled people up and down the country can get the support they need.”

    Among those that Irwin Mitchell has representing in relation to the issue is Ms C – who cannot be named – from Kent, who suffers from severe depression and was diagnosed with ME and high blood pressure in 2009. This condition causes severe physical exhaustion and a host of other health problems. She applied for PIPs in January 2014 after her worsening condition meant she was forced to leave her job, but she did not receive PIP until October, the day after court proceedings were issued.

    Ms C said: “The delay had a massive impact on my life. I applied for PIPs so I could look after myself, but without it I could barely eat and only ever left my house for a weekly trip to a supermarket.

    “I was completely isolated during the nine months I was waiting for my payments. While my wait came to an end, it is worrying that many, many others have still not received a decision.”

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It’s not a perfect fit as the article is about ESA. I was hoping you were saying something was being done about that and we’d missed it.

  15. Mr.Angry

    If and hopefully they will be kicked out in May, IDS will have turbo charged shredders working 24 hours a day until all evidence is destroyed. I bet my bottom dollar on this.

  16. JohnDee

    “Malfeasance in office” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malfeasance_in_office#English_law

    I have no legal training or experience – but I recently heard of a repeatedly-sanctioned DWP claimant who severely shook the DWP’s cage by complaining to the police and quoting this law (even getting the police involved) after the usual DWP shenanigans (his benefit was restored and the perps investigated – ‘don’t know the final outcome).

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