The DWP has failed this month in two major battles to keep damaging reports secret. The publication of secret sanctions research and secret deaths reports could both cause major problems for the DWP as it aims to impose a much harsher sanctions regime on UC claimants.
In the first blow, the Information Commissioner has ordered the department to publish a secret report on whether sanctions are effective in getting claimants back in to work.
The report came about after the DWP agreed, at the request of the work and pensions committee to carry out an evaluation of ‘whether the sanctions regime within Universal Credit is effective at supporting claimants to search for work’.
The department originally said it would publish its findings in 2019. Since then, however, it has refused to do so on the grounds that the final report ‘did not present a comprehensive picture of sanctions.’
It seems very likely that the report failed to find any evidence that sanctions were effective and this is why it is deemed to not be ‘comprehensive’.
Given that UC sanctions have now reached a record level, and are set to rise even higher under the proposed ‘computer says no’, regime, publication of this report is vital.
However, this may not be the end of the fight for secrecy by the DWP. They can still appeal the decision further, to the information rights tribunal.
This is exactly what they did in the second major lost battle of the month.
For years, John Pring of the Disability News Service (DNS) has been fighting the DWP over its refusal to publish secret reports into the deaths of claimants.
He has won a number of victories over the years and, in the latest, had been pushing for the DWP to publish recommendations made in 22 secret reports which were intended to reduce the number of suicides and other benefits related deaths.
Publication would allow people to judge whether the DWP has taken the recommendations seriously and followed them in order to reduce the harm the department does to claimants. Or whether the DWP has simply ignored them and carried on with business as usual.
Last October, the information commissioner ordered the publication of the reports.
Subsequently, the DWP appealed the decision to the information rights tribunal. But the DWP has now told DNS that it has now withdrawn its appeal, which means that they will be obliged to publish the reports.
We’ll let readers know when DNS has obtained the documents and reported on their contents.
You can read the information commissioner’s rulings on the secret sanctions report here.