Just hours after the commons work and pensions committee published a copy of the DWPs secret report into disability benefits yesterday, the DWP emailed us with a new excuse for refusing to give us a copy of the original, unaltered report.
Regular readers will know that as well as trying to get a copy of the report ‘The uses of health and disability benefits’, Benefits and Work has been trying to obtain a copy of the report that was originally given to the department.
According to the Disability News service, the final version was watered down, with the authors being told to reduce the number of references to “unmet needs” and to delete some of its analysis.
The DWP initially awarded themselves an extra month to consider our Freedom of Information request for the original report, saying that the ‘Formulation of government policy’ exemption may apply to the request, which allows refusal in order to allow ministers a safe space in which to formulate policy.
At the time we said that we suspected that the DWP was simply stalling to see if the work and pensions committee followed through on its threat to publish. Because if they did, that exemption would be very hard to argue and the DWP would need to come up with a new excuse.
And it seems we were right. The DWP now say that they now need yet another month to decide if the ‘Prejudice to effective conduct of public affair’s exemption applies instead.
According to the Information Commissioner’s Office:
‘Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs could refer to an adverse effect on the public authority’s ability to offer an effective public service or to meet its wider objectives or purpose, but the effect does not have to be on the authority in question; it could be an effect on other bodies or the wider public sector. It may refer to the disruptive effects of disclosure, for example the diversion of resources in managing the effect of disclosure.’
Benefits and Work is struggling to see how having to show what changes had been made to the original version of a single report could possibly render the DWP almost incapable of doing its job.
But, of course, this isn’t about the DWP honestly and fairly following the rules. This is about gaming the system and dragging things out for as long as they possibly can in the hope that we’ll lose interest and give up.
But we won’t.