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.


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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Michael · 2 years ago
    Throughout history many governments have withheld
    the knowledge to the people that need it most.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Patrizia Cialfi · 2 years ago
    This excuse is not only being recently used by the DWP, but also by the Home Office, the Ombudsman's Office, and a select committee.
    It appears to be a new strategy, as each are using the same tactics.
    Perversely, the ICO does not insist on evidence, leaving the requester to prove the lies, rather than the requestee justifying their refusal, which turns natural justice on its head.
    However, there is a solution. Case precedent shows that the 'prejudice....' excuse can not be reasoned with 'could be', or 'might be', or 'likely to' as standalone excuses, but must be supported with evidence to demonstrate that 'prejudice....' SHALL result if the information is disclosed.
    Further false arguments include claiming that disclosure will stifle debate and fetter open policy-creating discussions.
    You will win eventually, but it would appear that those whose remit it is to uphold the law have a vested interested in preventing disclosure as much as possible, contrary to Section 77.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Janet Cullingford · 2 years ago
    I am astounded at this excerpt
    'Support to complete application forms for ESA and PIP was provided either via
    informal support networks, local authority adult social care teams, or by support
    workers for those living in supported living.'
    What about the numerous VCFS organisations including Citizens Advice, Local authorities who have a welfare rights service etc. To have a LA social worker or social care team help claimant must be on high end of need die to thresholds.
    The majority of people who need help to complete forms must fall outside this, and most agencies don't have the resources to help as many people as need it
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Linda Williams · 2 years ago
      @Janet Cullingford "This exemption kicks in when disclosure would make it hard for a government department to carry on functioning effectively."
      Someone should tell DWP that they have not functioned effectively for years, even before this report. No doubt they would ignore this comment also.
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