Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) have revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forcing charities to sign contracts ‘promising’ not to criticise work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.
The revelations come from the website Disability News Service (DNS). John Pring, who runs DNS, submitted FOI requests to the DWP. He wanted to see the contracts between the department and five organisations which deliver its Work and Health Programme.
Part of that clause states that the contractor “shall pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of DWP and ensure it does nothing to bring it “into disrepute, damages the reputation of the Contracting Body or harms the confidence of the public in the Contracting Body”.
The contract defines the ‘Contracting Body’ as the work and pensions secretary, a position currently occupied by the much-criticised McVey…
The DWP says…
The DWP told Pring:
The department did not introduce this clause specifically for the Work and Health Programme contract. It has been used in DWP employment category contracts since 2015.
The contract is the framework which governs the relationship with DWP and its contractors so that both parties understand how to interact with each other.
The clause is intended to protect the best interests of both the department and the stakeholders we work with, and it does not stop individuals working for any of our contractors from acting as whistle-blowers under the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, nor does it prevent contractors from raising any concerns directly with the department.
Roll on 1984
But essentially, what the DWP is saying is that the contract does stop organisations from publicly criticising McVey and the department. Pring contacted the five organisations involved. They either refused to comment, or denied that the contract impeded their independence.
Paula Peters, from campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), told The Canary:
While charities take money from the government they are not allowed to be political or criticise government policy or ministers. They do not represent disabled people when they collude with the DWP and act as their lackeys to carry out government policy.
It has been shown time and again that DWP policy has been horrendously harmful to disabled people, ramping up poverty and deep psychological distress. This is a warning to the charities that continue to collude with the DWP and the Tory Government: we will expose you and shut you down.
She’s rightly angry. This kind of shocking Orwellian behaviour should have no place in a government department. But under the Conservative government, anything is possible.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?