The Daily Mirror has published an article after Maggie Zolobajluk’s petition topped 60,000 signatures.
The request to release the figures was made under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist Mike Sivier.
He asked how many people who died between November 2011 and May 2014 had recently been found fit to work, or told they could move towards getting work.
The DWP refused his request because chiefs said they were already preparing to publish the information in their own time, and it’d be unfair to rush them.
I was not contacted for comment – make of that what you will – so I added a few words in the article’s comment column as follows:
“I made the Freedom of Information request, after following the discussion about benefit-related deaths and reporting it on my blog, voxpoliticalonline.com – and I can tell you that the DWP is playing a dirty game.
“The Department wants a ‘paper’ hearing, which means all evidence will be documentary and there will be no opportunity to cross-examine DWP witnesses. This is against the interests of justice.
“The DWP has employed a barrister from the Treasury to build its case for it. This is a person who commands a salary of around £49,000 a year. When you consider the fact that FoI requests are refused if the cost of supplying the information is more than £600, this seems disproportionate and adds weight to the question: What does this government have to hide?
“Oh, and I’ve seen the DWP’s case – it is no different from the reasons for refusal that were overturned by the Information Commissioner. It seems to me that there is a strong case to be made for overturning the appeal as an abuse of process – there must be at least a 50 per cent chance of the appeal succeeding, you see, and this seems unlikely when you understand that the reasons I raised for granting my request correspond with the Information Commissioner’s own guidelines on FoI requests.
“Put it all together and the DWP doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
“This is a delaying tactic, nothing more.”