The accusations against DWP are coming thick and fast now. Here’s the latest, courtesy of Disability News Service:
A disabled man died of a heart attack, just an hour after being told that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was threatening to stop paying his out-of-work disability benefits.
Alan McArdle, who had previously been homeless but was living in council accommodation in Slough with the support of a charity, told the friend who had read the DWP letter to him: “They’ve sanctioned my money,” before he collapsed.
The government contractor responsible for finding him work, the discredited outsourcing giant Maximus, had reported him to DWP for failing to attend appointments intended to move him towards work, as part of the Work Programme, despite being told about his severe ill-health.
Slough’s Labour MP, Fiona Mactaggart, accused DWP of being responsible for her constituent’s death, and told Disability News Service she would raise his case in the House of Commons.
The mitigating words from DWP and Maximus manage to be both pathetic and infuriating at the same time. The DWP spokesperson came out with the current excuse:
“It’s misleading to link a death to someone’s benefit claim.”
Readers of This Blog will know that this replaced the previous excuse, “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim”, after it became plain not only that it is possible to suggest such a link but also that it would be irresponsible not to point it out.
The Maximus line was:
“Participation in the Work Programme is mandatory for people in the WRAG who are in receipt of ESA. We make strenuous efforts to inform participants about their obligations and contact them if they fail to show up for arranged meetings.”
The reason Mr McArdle had been sanctioned was for failing to keep in contact with Maximus. His mobility had become so poor that the organisation had allowed him to do this by phone – this fact alone is enough to raise questions regarding why he was not allowed to join the support group of ESA, where he would not be required to attend meetings and in which he obviously belonged.
He had suffered injuries after a fall that required him to be admitted to hospital, meaning he had been unable to contact Maximus as usual. When Mandy McGuire, project manager of the charity Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC), who had supported McArdle for 16 years, had told Maximus the situation, she said the company’s reply had been a little different:
“He hasn’t come in, so we will get him sanctioned.”
This is a clear example of DWP persecution leading to a claimant’s death. How obvious does it have to be?
He died from the shock of being told his benefits had been cut off while he was in hospital, for crying out loud. He didn’t belong in the work-related activity group at all; his health was so poor, he should not have been subjected to its pressures.
Maximus, the company monitoring his performance on the Work Programme, is also the company responsible for carrying out work capability assessments. It seems clear that Mr McArdle’s assessor was very badly mistaken about his condition.
He was wrongly assessed, put in the wrong group of ESA, and wrongly sanctioned – but both the DWP and Maximus are, incredibly, trying to say it isn’t their fault.
What follows should make you very angry: An ignorant Conservative councillor has attacked an opponent in the Labour Party for tweeting an entirely appropriate comparison between Iain Duncan Smith and Adolf Hitler.
Yes, Cllr Ashley Dearnley, leader of the Conservative group in Rochdale – it was perfectly appropriate for North Middleton Cllr Chris Furlong to tweet a picture of Hitler above one of Iain Duncan Smith and imply that the Conservatives may be responsible for the deaths of more disabled people than the Nazi leader – that is what the figures suggest.
Remember, the reference to the killing of 70,000 disabled people by Nazis is compared with only 81,040 people who died in only just over two years under Duncan Smith’s Conservative policies. We don’t have the full figures yet.
Mr Dearnley can’t say that Conservative Government policy has not led to any deaths because we have the case of Michael O’Sullivan to prove that it has.
Not only that, but north London coroner Mary Hassall’s report, blaming Tory policy for Mr O’Sullivan’s suicide, was filed in January 2014, meaning that the Tory Government’s protestations, throughout the summer, that there is no causal link between Mr Duncan Smith’s policies and the deaths of claimants, is proved to be a lie.
Cllr Dearnley, clearly ignorant of the hole into which his party has dug itself, is quoted as follows: “The remarks are appalling and are totally unacceptable. I would expect the Labour Party to withdraw his whip. If the new Labour leader has anything about him, he will make sure he is removed from the Labour party.”
It seems the matter has been referred for investigation by the Labour Party. This Writer would argue that, if Jeremy Corbyn has anything about him, he would celebrate Cllr Furlong’s forthrightness, highlight the support he has gained from disabled people and demand to know why the mainstream media have chosen to ignore this hugely important issue.
“I know if David Cameron heard that any of his councillors made remarks comparing people to Hitler, then David Cameron would make sure that they were removed from the Conservative party. If Corbyn has any mettle about him, he will ensure that this happens,” Cllr Dearnley continued. The rest of us don’t know that, though. We only see a man, whose policies have caused deaths, being rewarded for it.
Speaking to Rochdale Online, Councillor Furlong defended himself: “I posted the tweet because people are dying because of policies instigated by Iain Duncan Smith and the mainstream media is ignoring it. I have been campaigning on these issues for a while now but, for some reason, the mainstream media is choosing to ignore it.”
Join the club, Chris!
If the MSM really wanted to cover this, there are several possible issues to investigate:
The fact that in May 2014, I submitted a Freedom of Information Request on the number of incapacity benefit claimants who have died, and the Conservative Government has yet to honour that request with a full and honest answer. It claimed to have done so on August 27 but this was a lie.
The fact that part of the Tory Government’s failure to answer my FoI request means we do not know the full number of people who died after being found fit for work under the current government’s brutal regime. We know how many people who had been found fit for work died within two weeks of their claim ending (because they had been found fit for work) – but that is just a fraction of the total number of deaths. Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide six months later, but his death is still directly attributable to government policy. Mark Wood died of starvation, four months after being found fit for work – was the government any less guilty of causing his death?
The fact that the mortality rate in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance is three times the national average, yet these are people who are expected to be fit for work within a year. Attempts have been made to claim that they have conditions that make them more likely to die early, but this is irrelevant as they are pushed out to join the wider population (which has a far lower mortality rate) in any case. If they really do have more serious conditions, they should be in the support group. Right?
The fact that the death rates for all claimants of incapacity benefits do not tally with the death rates for Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance individually. It is to be expected that the number of claimants won’t tally because people have been migrated from the older benefit to the new, so they may have two claims within a particular year – but you can only die once, and you can only be on one benefit when it happens.
The fact that the medical test, taken as part of the work capability assessment for ESA, includes a question about whether the claimant has had suicidal thoughts in the past. If a claimant admits contemplating suicide, the next question is “Why haven’t you done it?” Is this not designed to push the claimant towards taking his/her own life, thus removing themselves from the benefit bill? It’s called chequebook euthanasia, and the Nazis were very fond of it.
The fact that, after visiting the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, Iain Duncan Smith himself started using the phrase “Work makes you free” in direct imitation of the words written in German over the camp gates. Those words were, of course, a sick joke – just as Iain Duncan Smith words have been for an unknown number of incapacity benefits claimants. He has recently adapted the phrase, as part of a drive to get even more ill people off the benefit books into “Work makes you healthy” – for which there is no medical proof at all. In the light of this behaviour, it is impossible not to compare this man with Hitler.
The above examples are just off the top of this writer’s head. The Conservative Government, and flunkies like Cllr Dearnley, want to pretend that everything is working perfectly and there is no cause for alarm.
But then, as you can see, the Conservative Government is full of liars.
Paper exercise: To some people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, the sight of an ESA50 form is enough to trigger anxiety, panic, or even heart attacks.
This Writer was amazed – yes, dear reader, amazed – to discover a new wrinkle in the DWP’s web of deceit, while writing a letter in support of a friend’s appeal against an Employment and Support Allowance decision.
My friend – who has multiple conditions, both physical and mental – had been placed in the work-related activity group nevertheless, and at 2pm yesterday, Yr Obdt Srvt was staring in astonishment at the DWP decision-maker’s professed reason for doing so.
It was the same for all the descriptors: “I place greater weight on the evidence of the Health Care Professional because they are trained disability analysts and the advice they provide is both impartial and unbiased”.
The DWP decision maker had not based his (or her) reasoning on any evidence at all, of course.
Examining the wording of this statement, we see that the decision was in fact based on two unsubstantiated claims about an unnamed ‘Health Care Professional’ who has never met the claimant – my friend had been migrated onto ESA from another benefit in a paper exercise and had not been asked to take part in one of the DWP’s medical assessments (which, in any case, we know are unfit for purpose).
Who is this ‘Health Care Professional’? How do we know this person is a trained disability analyst? Because this was a paper exercise, the ‘Health Care Professional’ had gone unnamed and had never met the claimant. They had never been asked to produce any credentials so the claimant was left with no idea whether this person really was a “trained disability analyst” or not.
I knew their advice was not impartial or unbiased because it was wrong. They had not taken account of the evidence they had been given but had chosen to ignore it instead. Looking at the ‘mobility’ descriptor alone, I know that the claimant in question has significant problems with walking so the advice that “there was no evidence to indicate that you were unable to do this activity” is incorrect, therefore the decision is also incorrect.
Most pernicious of all is the fact that my friend’s disabilities make it extremely difficult to challenge this faked, falsified decision. My friend suffers from chronic anxiety, with poor concentration and memory, panic attacks, and a tendency towards stress. When dealing with authority figures, my friend tends to lose track of what they are saying, fixating on elements that are tangential to the main issues. This makes it very hard to fight wrong decisions, which is why This Writer was asked to step in.
How many other disabled benefit claimants are there, who don’t have recourse to somebody like me?
Reading between the lines, it seems possible, if not downright likely, that the DWP decision maker saw an opportunity to achieve benefit savings targets by pushing somebody, who is clearly not going to be ready for work within a year, into a group where they will lose benefit after that time and be forced to seek work anyway.
If you want to know what happens to people in that position, look at the case of Michael O’Sullivan.
The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted defeat in its attempt to hide the number of people who have died while claiming incapacity benefits since November 2011 – and has announced that the number who died between January that year and February 2014 is a shocking 91,740.
This represents an increase to an average of 99 deaths per day or 692 per week, between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 – compared with 32 deaths per day/222 per week between January and November 2011.
The DWP has strenuously asserted that “any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics”.
It is correct to make this point.
The DWP has also claimed that “these isolated figures provide limited scope for analysis and nothing can be gained from this publication that would allow the reader to form any judgement as to the effects or impacts of the Work Capability Assessment”.
However, the increase in the frequency of these deaths is enough to raise questions about the way the incapacity benefit system is being run – questions that demand full, frank and immediate answers.
For example, the work-related activity group is composed entirely of people who are expected to recover from their illnesses and be well enough to return to work within a year. In that group, there should be no deaths at all – barring accidents. Why have nearly 10,000 people lost their lives after being assigned there?
Deaths in the support group and the assessment phase are more problematic because they involve people who do have serious illnesses, many of whom may be expected to die while claiming. But are these deaths being hastened artificially by the DWP’s treatment of them?
A statistical release published today (August 27) in response to my Freedom of Information request dating back to May 28, 2014, states that the total number of deaths involving claimants of Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance – between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 is 81,140, including 50,580 (ESA claimants) and 30,560 (IB/SDA claimants). All figures are rounded up to the nearest 10.
Add this to the 10,600 deaths that were already known between January and November 2011 and you have 91,740.
Information for ESA claimants shows:
7,540 deaths while claims were being assessed, bringing the known total to 9,740.
7,200 deaths in the work-related activity group, bringing the known total to 8,500.
32,530 deaths in the support group, bringing the known total to 39,630.
And 3,320 deaths in which the claimant was not in receipt of any benefit payment and is therefore marked as “unknown”.
The total number of claimants who flowed off ESA, IB or SDA whose date of death was at the same time and of those the number with a WCA decision of “fit for work”, between December 2011 to February 2014 was 2,650 (2,380 ESA, 270 IB/SDA).
And the total number of individuals who flowed off ESA, IB or SDA whose date of death was at the same time with a completed appeal following a WCA decision of “fit for work”, Great Britain: December 2011 to February 2014 was 1,360 (1,340 ESA, 20 IB/SDA).
The new numbers suggest the average number of deaths per day between January 2011 and February 2014 was around 79.5 – 556 per week.
This compares with an average between January and November 2011 of around 32 per day – 222 per week.
This Writer has not yet examined the DWP’s accompanying statistical release – providing the fudged Age-Standardised Mortality Rates between 2003 and 2014. The information in this one states that mortality dropped from 1,111 deaths per 100,000 (across all three benefits) to 1,032.
But claims for Incapacity Benefit (ESA didn’t exist at the time) were at an all-time high in 2003 – of nearly three million throughout the year. The numbers claiming this kind of benefit have both fallen and risen since then.
So what are we to conclude?
Firstly, the figures released today demand more considered, in-depth study than can be managed by This Writer within an hour or so of their release.
Second, that the DWP should drop its appeal against publishing them (for obvious reasons).
Third, that the Age-Standardised Mortality Rates give a false picture of the number of deaths – as predicted on this blog.
Finally, that serious questions must now be asked about the way incapacity benefits are being administered by the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith.
The Disability News Service has reported Vox Political‘s victory over the DWP, whose officers have less than a month to report the total number of deaths involving people claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014.
The article quotes John McArdle, co-founder of campaigning organisation Black Triangle, who said the updated statistics would be vital: “When the truth comes out about the devastation that this has caused, the whole of society will be absolutely appalled.”
Rick Burgess, co-founder of New Approach, which campaigns to scrap the fitness for work test, said: “People should know the cost of policies they are voting upon, especially when they are causing mass deaths.”
There is much more, and you are encouraged to visit the Disability News Service‘s website to read the full article.
If the Conservative Party forms the next government, the deaths will undoubtedly continue – no matter what the figures prove to be, or the public response to them.
Denied benefit: This is the late Karen Sherlock. Her illnesses included chronic kidney disease, a heart condition, vitamin B12 deficiency, anaemia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, underactive thyroid, asthma, diabetic autonomic neuropathy, gastropaeresis, and diabetic retinopathy. She died on June 8, 2012, of a suspected heart attack, after the Department for Work and Pensions stopped her Employment and Support Allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions has commented on this blog’s success in forcing it to reveal the number of Employment and Support Allowance claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.
Readers of this blog will recall that the DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request, made in May last year, but the Information Commissioner’s Office upheld an appeal that used its own rules to demonstrate that the Department had been wrong in law.
The comment appeared in an excellent article by Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror. She had contacted the DWP after receiving a press release on the subject from Vox Political – and we should be grateful to her for doing so. Comments to the mainstream media are invariably delivered much more quickly than responses to members of the public.
It is more interesting in what it does not say than it what it does. There is no reference to the fact that the DWP had been found to be wrongly applying the law; no suggestion that it will abide by the Information Commissioner’s ruling; in fact no reference to the Vox Political appeal at all.
Instead, we are told: “It is irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim. Mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.
“We’ll respond to the Information Commissioner in due course.”
Irresponsible, is it?
There are several ways to disprove this.
Firstly, let us consider the different elements of the Vox Political request. By definition, anybody in the work-related activity group of ESA is believed to be capable of recovering from their illness sufficiently to take a job within 12 months of making their claim. Between January and November 2011, the number of people in this group who died was 1,300; it should have been zero. It is therefore possible to claim that they were put in the wrong group (by a system that may have had targets to meet – but that is a different matter) and that their deaths may have been caused by the stress they faced in having to meet the conditions required by the DWP – or lose their benefit.
We can only say these deaths may have taken place for this reason, because the DWP has not carried out any research on the subject. This displays what many may conclude is a shocking carelessness on the part of the government department. Just one death, in this group, was one too many – but DWP officers, and Coalition Government ministers, allowed more than 1,000 to take place and have done nothing to research the cause and prevent more from happening.
For these reasons, it is simple to conclude that anyone who died while appealing against a DWP decision and those who died after being found fit for work should also be included in the statistics, although it seems likely the DWP will claim it has not researched the number of deaths taking place among those found fit for work. We have news stories covering some of these deaths, so the Department cannot claim ignorance that any deaths were taking place; therefore its omission of any investigation may be considered dereliction of duty on the DWP’s party.
It is possible for the DWP to claim that its comment is accurate regarding people in the support group of ESA – but only to a certain extent. This is why Vox Political initially left support group deaths off the original calculation of the average number of deaths taking place among claimants of ESA; this blog made it out to be around 60 people per week. But a commenter pointed out that being placed in the support group does not mean that a person with a long-term illness will be left alone, and that it is entirely possible that harassment by the DWP could have led to premature deaths in this group; people in the support group are subjected to periodical reassessments that not only cause extreme stress but may be called at random intervals, rather than at regular times. It is entirely possible for a person in the support group to be found fit for work, and have to appeal against the decision – causing more stress. And anyone winning an appeal is entirely likely to find a notice of reassessment in their letterbox the very next day – signalling a return to the beginning of that cycle of stress.
Under these circumstances, This Writer had no choice but to include people in the support group among the death toll – pushing the average during the period covered in 2011 up to more than 220 per week. Although the DWP’s claim that “mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher” is more likely to be correct when applied to people in this group, the Department simply has not done any research on the causes of death. Instead, we have news stories which make it very clear where responsibility lies.
That leaves people who are in the assessment phase of the process. Readers will be aware that the DWP has lengthened this part of the claim procedure hugely by adding a new “mandatory reconsideration” procedure – if a claim is refused, the claimant may not appeal against it until after “mandatory reconsideration” has taken place. There is no time limit in which it must take place and no benefit is paid during the “mandatory reconsideration” period. It is hard to believe this is not intended to place the lives of vulnerable people at risk. How are they supposed to pay the bills, with no money coming in? If they have a mental health condition, won’t this be worsened by the incessant money worries being forced on them by this DWP-enforced process? Of course it will.
Examples of ESA-related deaths (and suicides) are a running theme in Vox Political; this blog has recounted the stories of dozens of people who either died after their benefit was withdrawn or committed suicide because they could not see a way out. We have seen stories of people with terminal cancer being ordered to go to work; of people on their deathbeds being told to attend an interview for work-related activity or lose benefits; of one person with severe mental health problems who had been thrown off sickness benefit and sanctioned off of JSA, who froze to death in the street because he had nowhere else to go.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith lied on television yesterday (May 5), during a debate on the benefit system, when he said no such review had taken place. The Green Party subsequently demanded a formal apology from the minister, for misleading the public.
One final point: Duncan Smith’s, and the DWP’s, arguments would never stand up in a court of law. There is a wealth of evidence to show the connections between people losing benefit and their subsequent deaths. The DWP has supplied none to disprove those connections. Therefore, if this matter were being tried under jury conditions (as it may be, if allegations of corporate manslaughter are made after the information becomes available) then a jury would have no choice but to convict the representatives of the public organisation.
Duncan Smith labelled the allegations against him and his department “cheap”.
We’ll see how cheap they prove, when all the information is available to the public.
In the meantime, Vox Political‘s advice to readers is unchanged: The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have withheld the facts from you.
Almost a week after being ordered to reveal the number of sickness benefit claimants who have died between November 2011 (the last statistics published) and May 2014 (when This Writer submitted a Freedom of Information request for the facts) the Department for Work and Pensions has yet to furnish us with the figures.
Thanks to a delay of more than seven weeks before the Information Commissioner’s Office published its decision to uphold my appeal against the DWP and order officials to hand over the facts, the department does not – legally – have to deliver them until June 4, meaning people will have to vote in the general election without knowing how many of their fellow citizens have died while in the care of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition.
Some of us don’t think that is acceptable. Here’s why:
Feel free to copy the image and share it everywhere – or even print it off as a poster if you like.
Vox Political will keep you updated as further developments take place.
It grieves This Writer to report that today, Vox Political Towers has received no envelope from the Department for Work and Pensions containing details of sickness benefit-related deaths between November 2011 and May 2014 – nor has there been any email contact.
It seems the DWP intends to keep us waiting the full 35 days legally afforded to it before providing an answer to that question – meaning we may be waiting up to four weeks after the general election.
There is good news, though – certain members of the mainstream media have been in touch and we may see news stories on the subject later today – depending on the decisions of editors.
In the main, though, it’s still down to those of us in the social media to raise awareness of this.
So here’s the latest infographic. Please feel free to copy and share, everywhere:
Hopefully there will be another infographic tomorrow – along with more positive news of the campaign to get this information out.
Believe it or not, there may still be some people in the UK who don’t know the Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to release details of the number of sickness benefit claimants who have died since November 2011.
People of good conscience across the country – including several celebrities – have been publicising Vox Political‘s article on the subject, on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets – but the mainstream media of TV, radio and the national newspapers have been quiet so far, despite having been alerted to the issue by This Writer.
Quelle surprise, as the French might say.
It was never really likely that the right-wing press was going to publish material that is as critical of the last government as this undoubtedly is. It seems, if the message is to get out to the wider electorate, then we must get it there ourselves.
Here’s a handy infographic, for that very purpose:
Feel free to copy it and paste it onto your own Facebook page, Twitter messages, and emails to friends/family/local newspapers and anyone else you believe would benefit from the information.
This is a major issue. The mainstream media want to sideline it because it isn’t convenient for them. They find matters involving the sick and disabled very awkward as it might cast their moral stance in a bad light when they support right-wing political parties.
Don’t let it be sidelined.
Many Vox Political readers are doing their bit to inform the public. We all need to keep up the pressure, right up to polling day (Thursday).
Do it for the sick and disabled. Do it for the sake of your conscience. Do it for the UK.
Brian McArdle. On the BBC’s Question Time in November 2012, Iain Duncan Smith flew into a rage when Owen Jones challenged him about what happened to Mr McArdle, “57 years old, paralysed down one side, blind in one eye; he couldn’t speak. He died one day after being found ‘fit for work’.”
The Department for Work and Pensions has been ordered to disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.
The ruling comes from the Information Commissioner after an appeal by Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier.
But it seems likely to have been delayed – possibly for political reasons. If the number of deaths has been high, then it would generate a backlash against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties that presided over them in the Coalition Government.
Mr Sivier said: “The decision notice was ready in March, but the Information Commissioner’s Office delayed its release for reasons that have not been given. Suppose a large number of deaths have taken place – I have heard suggestions that 60,000 people or more may have died as a result of government policy.
“It seems clear that the revelation of many deaths may turn voters away from supporting the Conservatives or Lib Dems – so it seems appropriate to question that delay. Will the election result be valid if the number of deaths is not known on May 7?”
The DWP had refused a Freedom of Information request on the grounds that the information would be published in the future (a section 22 exemption) – but the Information Commisioner found that officials had been wrong to do so.
The ruling means the DWP must disclose – within 35 calendar days of April 30 – the number of IB and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014, broken down into the following categories:
Those in the assessment phase,
Those who were found fit for work,
Those who were placed in the work-related activity group,
Those who were placed in the support group, and
Those who had an appeal pending.
In his ruling, the Commissioner states: “It appears … that the DWP has had reasonable time to prepare for publishing [the] information and that disclosure was not so novel or unusual given the previous requests and disclosures made.
“DWP have not supplied any detailed or convincing evidence about the time needed and what preparation would need to be undertaken during this time or what the specific impact of disclosure would be… The DWP has previously published similar information.
The decision notice continued: “It is not reasonable for the DWP, having had enough time to extract the information and prepare internally for publication, to seek further time to provide the information requested.
“The Commissioner also finds that delaying publication is not reasonable in light of the requests DWP have received from the public and the fact that the previous statistics published were around two years old at the time of the request.”
Mr Sivier said he had first asked for information on benefit-related deaths in the summer of 2013: “It was almost a year after the DWP had published an ‘ad hoc’ report entitled Incapacity Benefits (Deaths of Claimants).
“That document stated that 10,600 people had died between January and November 2011, while claiming benefits that should have helped them survive with a reasonable quality of life. Some of those people may have died because of their conditions but evidence that has become available since suggests that many died due to the stress of constant reassessment by an unsympathetic government department that was determined to clear as many people off its books as possible, no matter what the health risks might be.”
He said: “I knew that other FOI requests had been made in November 2012 – a year after the last date covered in the ‘ad hoc’ report – but they had been refused. When I made my request in June 2013, I publicised it via my website, Vox Political, and asked for others to submit a similar request in the hope that weight of numbers might sway the DWP. This was a mistake as the department was able to use FOI rules to dismiss my request as being ‘vexatious’.
“I made a new request last May, and the DWP illegally delayed its response by several months. When ministers finally denied me the information, claiming they would be publishing it at an unspecified date in the future, I checked the rules and found that they were wrong. That is why I appealed to the Information Commissioner – and I am delighted that the Commissioner has upheld my appeal.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the DWP may appeal to the Information Rights Tribunal, but Mr Sivier said he doubted any such appeal would succeed: “I took my first request to a tribunal and, although the decision was upheld, the judges stated that they were extremely sympathetic to my cause.
“They said they did not see any reason why another FOI request, properly made out, should not be successful. That is why I tried again.”
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