John Pring of the Disability News Service calls out the Department for Work and Pensions press office over delays and disinformation.
He pinpoints just part of a larger malaise. This Writer knows that any attempt to secure information from the DWP is treated abominably – ministers and their minions simply don’t want the public to know what they are doing.
Because the facts are so awful?
What are we supposed to think?
Yesterday, Disability News Service published a news story which showed that successive ministers for disabled people had signed up only about 40 mainstream private sector employers to their flagship Disability Confident employment scheme in the three years since it was launched.
The story was based on an analysis by Disability News Service (DNS) of a list that appears on the Office for Disability Issues website.
That analysis shows that – with the exception of 15 law firms, and recruitment, welfare-to-work and employment specialists, which often have a financial interest in disability issues – the government seems to have persuaded just 26 non-disability-related private sector organisations to sign up to its national scheme, and one of those is a small café in Cornwall.
Because I like to give DWP a chance to respond to potential stories whenever I can – it’s the responsible and professional thing to do as a journalist – I approached the press office by email in the early hours of Tuesday for a comment on my analysis.
What happened over the following three or so days does – in my opinion – raise serious questions about how the DWP press office has been allowed to operate over the last six years. They were evasive, refused to respond to the points I asked them to comment on, and over-ran the agreed deadline, all of which has become standard practice (on deadlines, if they don’t over-run, the comments will arrive minutes before they expire).
Personally, I don’t blame the individual press officers. My gut feeling is that they are following orders, and have been told that if they don’t follow those orders, they will be disciplined. Of course, that doesn’t completely excuse them.
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