Why is the DWP pleading for more time to answer a simple FoI request?

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

[Picture: Skwawkbox blog]

Remember the Vox Political Freedom of Information request? The one asking for the number of incapacity benefits claimants who had died between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014? The one the DWP claimed to have answered with a ‘statistical release’ on August 27?

The one This Writer proved had answered only those parts of my request that suited the DWP’s own purposes?

Today, I received an email from the Information Commissioner’s solicitor, saying that the Department for Work and Pensions may be able to provide a “substantive” response to queries about the matter by the end of next week. That’s more than 17 months after the original request was submitted! The legal maximum period for a response is 20 working days.

I had written to the Information Commissioner, pointing out that the DWP had not followed the terms of his decision notice but had withdrawn its appeal against that decision. Therefore it must provide all the information – including the full number of people who died after being found fit for work, not just those dying within a two-week period of the end of their claim – or be in contempt of court.

The information about everybody who died after being found fit for work should prove extremely interesting, in the light of a coroner’s finding that a DWP ‘fit for work’ decision directly contributed to the death of Michael O’Sullivan in late 2013. The coroner’s verdict was recorded in January 2014 – more than a year before the DWP started issuing – false – claims that there is no evidence to suggest a causal link between DWP benefit decisions and the deaths of claimants.

So you can see that the DWP is now between a rock and a hard place.

Without any further information from the government department, it is impossible to draw any conclusions. However, since the DWP is saying it needs until early October to provide a response to the Information Commissioner’s queries – let alone my original FoI request, it seems clear that there was never any intention to answer the request in a full and honest manner. It seems that the DWP has instead attempted to answer only those parts of the request that suited its own agenda.

Now that ministers are being made to account for their actions, they are stalling for time. To me, that mitigates very strongly in favour of a finding that the DWP did, indeed contumeliously (it means scornfully and insultingly; insolently) disregard the Information Commissioner’s decision.

That is the current situation. Further updates will appear, as and when appropriate.

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  1. moira September 25, 2015 at 11:58 am - Reply

    There will be even more deaths if they carry out their purge on people with mental health problems. I nearly killed myself when they stopped my benefits in the past. People with mh problems aren’t able to handle stress or pressure and many are unstable anyway from bad life experiences.

    • Mike Sivier September 26, 2015 at 12:11 am - Reply

      … and current DWP practices are geared towards making those problems worse.

      • Moira September 26, 2015 at 5:30 am - Reply

        Yes. If people attempt suicide then it will mean more expense for the government. Hospitalisation. I had massive breakdown after they stopped money a few years back.
        Now with the Tories in I have also developed physical health problems. Although the DWP are leaving me alone at the moment. So am able to relax a bit.
        Many people with mh problems suffer with social anxiety so going to the DWP,interviews is distressing. Along with absentmindedness. Getting appts mixed up,even though they are written down on calendar. Lack of organisational skills.All these questions are asked on the form when you go on the work programme. So they are acknowledging these are genuine problems yet at the same time using the above to sanction people.

        When the benefit goes down to JSA level that’s going to cause mass poverty. A heat or eat situation. No money for recreation or hobbies or socialising which will mean isolation and mulling on your problems. Then theres no support workers cos of cutbacks. Cpns hard to get. Peoples mental health will get worse. Will result in hospital admissions or suicide as people get in despair. Plus not eating properly makes health problems far worse.

        MIND are recognising all this. What a disaster it is but with a gov that hates people on benefits and seems to regard them as shirkers,the gov are not going to listen to Mind. In the past, governments have taken on board charities views and not allowed policies to go ahead that will hurt poor children,the disabled. But this is a brutal government.
        Sorry for the lecture but seen people in my life die under the stress of welfare reforms.

  2. Jeffery Davies September 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Did you in truth think they would I didnt but keep at it perhaps the rest of britain will wake up to the fact they were culling the stock by any means jeff3

  3. Dez September 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Information Commissioners input, whilst supportive, seem to be a tad slow in getting to grips with the insulting DWP dismissive attitude. Stalling for time seems to the new game to allow for the heat and the interest in this shameful episode to evaporate as last nights news.

  4. gfranklinpercival September 25, 2015 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    Sir, you are not alone, below is a quotation from a piece in Disability News Service:

    “The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has carried out its threat to stop answering any questions from the country’s only disability news agency.

    DWP’s chief press officer (disability) had previously warned that he and his staff would stop dealing with Disability News Service (DNS) if it refused to change its procedures.

    DWP has repeatedly missed deadlines, but has begun insisting that if and when it finally produces a late comment – even if produced hours after stories have been sent out to subscribers and have been published – DNS should update its website to show the government’s response.”

    Deadlines are for the little people, not government.

    • Mike Sivier September 26, 2015 at 12:10 am - Reply

      Yes, I mean to write something about the DWP’s appalling treatment of John Pring very soon.

    • A-Brightfuture September 26, 2015 at 8:14 am - Reply

      Is anyone surprised? The DWP have now pulled up the drawbridge and put sharks in the moat. If your name is not on the list you cannot come in.

      The defence mode of the DWP only says one thing…………we are guilty, and we are going to blame YOU!! coz we cannot take any kind of responsibility for our corrupt running of a department , we have run out of excuses……..so go away.

  5. Mr.Angry September 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Entirely right, the DWP have become a law onto themselves with IDS on the high ground, his arrogance shines through, listens to no one, he is always right.

    How dare anyone question his integrity or ill-thought out reforms.

    Uneducated, lying moron and Cameron has the sheer audacity putting a simpleton like this in charge of a major project.

    It’s like asking Ken Dodd to run the Bank of England how pathetic can you get?.

  6. shaunt September 25, 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Well done Mike, your work is a good example of how the democratic process works. For the most part, and most people, it does not work that well, however, if you have the knowledge, tenacity and perseverance it can be made to work. Of course, it’s much easier if you can afford to hire a P.R. firm. That stated, I do not think they would have achieved as much as you have, and due process has not yet shaken all the rotten apples from the tree!

  7. AndyH September 25, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    It’s like the scene in The Young Ones.

    “Don’t rush me – it’s not such an easy question to answer – have I got a telly – there could be a number of different replies”.

  8. John Kolacz September 25, 2015 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Keep at them Mike :)

  9. mrmarcpc September 25, 2015 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    So they have more time to bury the truth from us, hiding the real effects of what their decisions and actions have had on the poor and sick people of our nation, they should not be allowed to do that and should be forced to reveal what they have now and stop their obvious stalling tactics, make them answer us now!

  10. mili68 September 25, 2015 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Tweeted @melissacade68

  11. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady September 25, 2015 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Unbelievable – imagine if claimants carried on like they are – the full might of DWP would come down upon them! As always Mike, you know where I am if you need any assistance.

  12. gfranklinpercival September 25, 2015 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    I think you had better establish which of the two meanings of the word is intended by the DWP’s use of the word ‘substantive’, since you can drive a coach and eight between them

    having a firm basis in reality and so important, meaningful, or considerable.
    “there is no substantive evidence for the efficacy of these drugs”
    having a separate and independent existence.

  13. Moira September 26, 2015 at 11:35 am - Reply

    We were talking to a lady whos relative works in the DWP. She said DWP staff are leaving in droves. One committed suicide. She said their job now isn’t about getting people into work but finding ways to stop their benefits. They don’t like this role and there are definitely targets that they have to reach to get peoples benefits stopped.

  14. Phil Lee September 26, 2015 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Which court would you need to “lay informations” before to drag the DWP officials into court for contempt?

    • Mike Sivier September 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      High Court, I think.

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