DWP has delayed long enough. WHERE IS MY INFORMATION?

[Image: www.eastgippsland.net.au]

[Image: www.eastgippsland.net.au]

When the government wants information from a citizen, you have to provide it within a certain time limit under threat of sanction. Why is it, then, that the government is allowed all the time in the world when the roles are reversed?

The story so far: A long time ago (May 28, 2014, in fact), This Writer submitted a Freedom of Information request, asking for the the number of incapacity benefits claimants who had died between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014.

The DWP claimed to have answered with a ‘statistical release’ on August 27 this year, but I proved that this answered only those parts of the request that suited the DWP’s own purposes and called on the Information Commissioner to demand that the DWP provide the information in a timely manner – or be convicted of Contempt of Court.

On September 25 I had an email from the Information Commissioner’s Office, saying the DWP had pleaded for more time to make a “substantive” response, but may be able to answer the ICO’s queries about the matter – let alone my FoI request! – by October 2.

Having heard nothing by the end of last week – seven days after the deadline – I got back in touch with the ICO. Today I had a reply, to the effect that the DWP “has not been able to provide a final and substantive response at the time of writing.  It has therefore asked for a further short extension in which to reply”.

The solicitor handling the case believes the Commissioner’s position on any future action needs to be more fully informed by way of further explanation from the DWP, and has therefore granted the extension – but added: “In the event that the DWP does not provide a substantive response by the end of this week, I will seek instructions … as to how to proceed.”

Let’s bear in mind that to prove contempt of court, it must be shown that the DWP has contumeliously (it means scornfully and insultingly; insolently) disregarded the Information Commissioner’s decision that it should divulge all the information I requested. That decision was made on April 30 this year, meaning the DWP has managed to delay honouring that decision by more than five months (so far).

I would say that constitutes contumelious disregard, wouldn’t you?

In response to the email, I have written back as follows: “As far as I can see, the DWP is stringing you along with promises that it doesn’t intend to keep – or perhaps only when it suits ministers. This is not acting in good faith.

“It is many months since the full, complete and unabridged information should have been published. Look at what this organisation has done to prevent that publication – appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, then withdrawing that appeal after several months in order to claim that a limited release of heavily-edited information was a full and frank disclosure, and now delaying from one week to the next.

“This is not acceptable.”

Having withdrawn its appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision, Iain Duncan Smith must provide all the information I requested – 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 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.

Some may say that it is impossible to draw any conclusions without this vital information from the DWP.

Some may say the fact that the DWP is failing to provide it – after almost a year and a half – tells us all we need to know.

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  1. Russ Clewlow October 12, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the new word. Always thought I was pretty literate but ‘contumelious’ is a new word on me. Will make that my word of the week.

    Anyway keep up the good work Mike and hopefully one day soon you’ll get the real information or the DWP up for contempt of court, hopefully the latter as that’ll be more embarrassing for the Tories and presumably they would still have to release the info.

    • Mike Sivier October 12, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      It was a new word on me, too.
      Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I think the DWP would still have to release the information if they were found to be in contempt.

  2. Clare October 12, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Well done Mike. Keep up the hard work. with the lying cretins!! IDS will be cacking in his underpants and have to claim on his expenses, for lots more by the time the results are known :)

  3. thomassutcliffe October 12, 2015 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I would say the DWP are lucky to still have an opportunity to ante up the information without being done for being in contempt of court. If the DWP have not ponied up the information in full and with no attempt at obfuscation by the end of this week then launching proceedings against them for being in contempt of court is the only option – and the first person called to the witness stand to testify on the DWP side in such a case should be the person who runs the organisation – The Gentleman Ranker.

  4. marcusdemowbray October 12, 2015 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I wonder if ICO is aware of the UN Representative’s forthcoming visit.

    I also wonder whether the UN’s Representative is aware of the behaviour of DWP towards the ICO.

    It seems clear to me that DWP is failing to obey ICO or FoI and I think both ICO and UN Rep should be made fully aware of each other’s experiences as it is a clear sign of the malice and dishonesty at the heart of IDS’s reforms.

  5. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady October 12, 2015 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    As always Mike, if you need any assistance just give me a shout.

    • Mike Sivier October 12, 2015 at 9:22 pm - Reply


  6. Tony Turtle October 12, 2015 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Exactly, slightly less important, I’ve had WCAs rescheduled twice now, if I hadn’t shown up, they would have sanctioned me, can I sanction them? No!

  7. Brian October 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    We do already know, we just want it in writing, it’s not unreasonable.

  8. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) October 12, 2015 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    I empathize with your situation, which must be enormously frustrating. I was wondering: If fees for Freedom of Information requests are introduced by this Government, will they refund our money if responses are not received in a timely fashion?

    • Mike Sivier October 12, 2015 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      I think we all know the answer to that.

  9. foggy October 12, 2015 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    Mike, would crowdsourcing for funds to obtain a barrister to take the DWP to court over their failings to follow rulings be an option? I’m sure you would be able to take them to task yourself but a barrister could give it them all guns blazing with full knowledge of the law..

    Somehow, we must bring them to be accountable for their appalling behaviour so as they don’t keep doing this over and over again.

    I would be more than willing to donate to such a fund if one were to be set up.

    • Mike Sivier October 12, 2015 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      If they don’t satisfy the Information Commissioner’s legal team (and even if they do respond by the end of the week, there’s no guarantee that it will be satisfactory) then they’ll do all the heavy lifting.
      Let’s just see what happens for now. I’ve made my dissatisfaction plain.

  10. Mr.Angry October 13, 2015 at 5:23 am - Reply

    Well done Mike I would not like to upset you, as I have said before do you have some Jack Russell in you ?

    They are in contempt no doubt about it, however since coming to power it appears they are answerable to no one, they think they are clearly above the law.

    Just look at the Chillcot inquiry how long has that been going on and it’s still behind closed doors.

    This shower of crooks are committing back door genocide and getting away with it how can this be?

    They take exception being compared to the nazis, how dare they when it’s clearly obvious.

  11. tim October 13, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    There are no suitable bank holidays until Christmas Mike….. I would bet all my heavily sanctioned benefits that that will be the time you get your info!!!!!

  12. Helen October 13, 2015 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Hi Mike, thank you again for your work it is very interesting and I seem to be on the same wavelength. It seems that the Tories think you would have given up by now. I thank you very much for your determination.
    What do you think would actually happen if they did produce the figures you are asking for?
    I know I shouldn’t say this but I really am very surprised that none of them have had an unfortunate “accident” the number of people who are now very angry and upset.

    • Mike Sivier October 13, 2015 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      I don’t know what will happen – it depends on what the figures show.
      Personally, I think the Tories are trying to work up another fudge or smokescreen.

  13. Barry Davies October 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Keep up the good work Mike, but don’t hold you breath waiting for an award such as a CBE for it, that only goes to people who aid the government with their long standing complaints.

    • Mike Sivier October 13, 2015 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      I have no illusions in that regard!

  14. Malcolm Wiffen October 13, 2015 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    I am delighted that you have not let the DWP’s delays and obfuscations deter you from relentlessly pursuing the answer to the question contained in your FOI request. Keep going!

    I remain surprised that the petition on the .gov website to prompt a vote of no confidence in Duncan Smith has garnered such little support. A similar petition citing Jeremy Hunt received more that 200,000 signatures.

    • hugosmum70 October 13, 2015 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      is it possible that people are reluctant to put names (and in some of these petitions sites they want addresses too and other identifiable details), in case names are picked out from the reams of sheets of each petition, and traced back to them. (I refuse to put those details if i sign anything and if i am not allowed to sign without putting my details in then so be it. they don’t get my signature,. simples.
      (much as i would like to sign a lot of petitions that come my way, i refuse to sign any that want more than my name and possibly county./country. i do not want repercussions and we already know IDS will stop at nothing to get rid of certain classes of people.

  15. mrmarcpc October 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Indeed keep up with the great work Mike, keep the pressure on them, we must make them tell what is really going on, make them tell us the truth!

  16. David Anthony Penson October 16, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Mike, this does not surprise me in the least, I wrote to D.W.P back in August detailing the Fraud going on within the Contractors or providers as the Department insists on calling the companies contracted to run the community work placements programme here in Bracknell , they said I would get a reply by the end of September 2015, I am still waiting.
    I suggest a group of us get together and present our joint evidence to the Police with the view to prosecuting these wrongdoers as they appear to think they are above the Law. David Penson Bracknell Berkshire.

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