Disability News Service has revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions has breached Freedom of Information laws by failing repeatedly to release a series of reports that were written in secret by disabled people who had been recruited to work within jobcentres.
As part of the DWP’s work, health and disability green paper Improving Lives, in which they laid out plans to recruit around 200 “community partners,” who ministers said would have “personal and professional experience of disability,” who would “provide valuable first-hand insight” into the issues faced by disabled people who were attempting to find gainful and sustained employment.
These community partners have been submitting regular reports on the jobcentres – which have never been released. In an attempt to see their contents, DNS issued an FOI to the DWP in May, which specifically asked to see any of the reports written by community partners working in the London district between 2017 and 2018.
Despite the law requiring FOIs to be answered within 20 days, no response has been given. Further requests to the Freedom of Information team to receive an answer on 5 and 19 July garnered no response – a clear breach of the Freedom of Information Act.
In an attempt to get the long awaited answer to the request, DNS reached out to the FOI team, who informed them that she had “chased it” up, and that they had “every right to go to the Information Commissioner’s Office” in order to lodge a complaint.
“I have tried,” she told DNS. “I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.”
A statement from a DWP spokesperson gave no further clarification to the issue, simply informing DNS:
“Any issues relating to FOI requests can be dealt with by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.
“As you know, DWP spokesperson statements must come from the DWP press office, and we regularly provide you with statements, as we are doing so in this instance.
“Please can you therefore use the above wording in your story instead of quoting from phone calls with DWP employees.”
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