The DWP has refused our request to see a copy of the original, unaltered survey on the unmet needs of disability benefits claimants. They have also refused to say whether they will publish a separate survey on claimants’ financial situations and what support they may need. Yet, information about how disabled claimants were struggling financially even before the current cost of living crisis began is desperately important.
‘The uses of health and disability benefits’ report was finally published in February. Although it was damning in itself of the failure to pay disabled claimants enough to meet their basic needs, there was evidence that it had been watered down.
The Disability News Service was told by a whistle blower that the original version of the report was sent back to the authors by the DWP with instructions to reduce the number of references to “unmet needs” and to delete some of its analysis.
Our request to see a copy of the original report was refused by the DWP on the grounds that disclosure “would be likely to inhibit candour and be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.”
A request for a review of this decision by the DWP has produced the same response.
We have now forwarded the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Separately, Benefits and Work has revealed that another survey is being carried out on behalf of the DWP by a national polling company.
The online survey asks a number of questions about what kind of debts claimants have, what effect the debts have had on them and what support they need.
Whilst the survey looks like it could be used to blame claimants for going cold and hungry because of poor budgeting skill, it nonetheless may contain important information about how claimants are struggling.
But, the DWP have refused to answer our Freedom of Information request about how many claimants were involved, how they were selected and whether the survey is going to be published.
The DWP claim the information is exempt because they intend to publish it at a later date, but give absolutely no indication of when this may be.
The issue of unmet needs has become even more pressing because of the current cost of living crisis, which will see many more disabled claimants unable to pay for basics as energy costs explode and inflation continues to rise.
The energy bill for a typical home is set to rise to £1,971 a year, due to the 54% rise in the price cap. This is projected to increase even further in October.
For many disabled claimants, who may need to keep their homes warmer or run medical equipment, the costs will be even higher.
In addition, council tax bills are increasing, water rates are rising and food bills are also going up.
For the DWP to try to cover up their own research on how inadequate benefits payments are for disabled claimants at such a time is particularly shameful.
But altogether unsurprising.