The DWP is accused of hiding ‘secret reports’ about how jobcentres treat disabled people

A jobcentre plus sign

A disability-focused news service says the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has breached the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The service says “in an apparent attempt to prevent the release of secret reports”, it’s failed to respond on time to an FOI request.

“First-hand insight”

In 2017, the DWP started recruiting ‘community partners’ to work in jobcentres. It aimed to recruit around 200 of them, described by the DWP as “people with personal and professional experience of disability”.

Their role would be to work with jobcentre staff, to:

build their capability and provide valuable first-hand insight into the issues individuals with a health condition or disability face in securing and sustaining employment… Community Partners will also engage with local employers to help improve the recruitment and retention of disabled people and people with health conditions.

According to the Disability News Service (DNS), community partners “submit regular reports on their work, often based on their experiences of visiting jobcentres”. It says these reports are “secret”.

Request to see the reports

In May, the DNS submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking to see reports written by community partners in London jobcentres in 2017 and 2018. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, authorities are required to respond to requests for information within 20 working days.

The DWP did not respond within that time, so the DNS contacted it twice more in July to ask for the information. The DNS reports that a staff member from the DWP’s FOI department told the service:

Read on...

I chased it again this morning and I don’t know why it has taken so long. I have reminded them of their duty to reply in time and that is where I am with it…

I have tried. I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.

In a statement, the DWP asked the DNS not to quote what the staff member said in its reporting. The DWP also said:

If you are unhappy with the handling of an FOI request please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. The latest statistics show that DWP answered 95 per cent of FOI requests within 20 working days, exceeding the information commissioner’s compliance threshold of 90 per cent.

One rule for them…

The DWP is a lot harder on claimants than it appears to be on itself. People can be sanctioned for many different reasons, including being late for appointments or failing to update their CV. In its guidance to claimants on how to keep their benefits, the DWP advises:

Provide as much information as you can, as quickly as possible.

In February, the Guardian reported on the case of a disabled woman who lost her benefits after she failed to send in a form on time because of her illness. And a former jobcentre staff member claims they were expected to sanction people if they were five minutes late for an interview.

So the DWP can be late, but others can’t. Welcome to the department’s double standards.

Get Involved!

– Follow the Disability News Service on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured image via Andrew_Writer – Flickr

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?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed