The government is breaking its own rules on publishing research in order to hide evidence given by 120 disabled claimants about how they are treated by the DWP. The cover-up comes as the DWP fights to prevent a further inquest into Jodie Whiting’s death, which would look at whether there are life-threatening flaws in the way disabled claimants are supported.
Stephen Timms MP, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, wrote to Therese Coffey, DWP secretary of state in August, asking for a copy of a report entitled The Uses of Health and Disability Benefits, which interviewed 120 claimants about their experiences of receiving PIP, ESA and Universal Credit.
The report was completed in 2020, but has still not been published and no reference has been made to it in any subsequent green paper relating to disability or benefits.
In an entirely dismissive two sentence response Coffey replied to Timms that it was not necessary for the government to publish the report and it did not intend to do so.
However, Timms has written back to Coffey asking again for a copy of the report.
He has pointed out that when the research was commissioned, the bid pack stated that the successful bidder would have to create:
“A final report of the research findings for publication” and “a one-page summary of the research for the DWP website”
Timms has also pointed out that the government has a protocol for the publication of social research whose principles include the following:
Principle 1. The products of government social research and analysis will be made publicly available.
Principle 2. There will be prompt release of all government social research and analysis.
Principle 3. Government social research and analysis must be released in a way that promotes public trust.
The government is clearly breaching all of these principles and Timms has now asked for an explanation from Coffey by 11 October.
As Timms himself says:
“Some 120 disabled people gave up their time—at DWP’s request—to talk about their experiences of the benefits system, in the expectation that they were taking part in research that would be published and used to inform policy. DWP should be listening to the voices of disabled people. Instead, the Secretary of State seems to have simply brushed this important report under the carpet.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Government is refusing to publish this research because its findings are too embarrassing. It must now publish the report without further delay.”
It may be that there is nothing in the report that relates to the avoidable deaths of claimants. But if a picture is painted of an organisation that is institutionally cynical, disablist and incompetent then it may be very relevant indeed.
On the basis that when it comes to pressure, every little helps, Benefits and Work has made a freedom of information request for a copy of the report. Given that the bid required a report to be written for publication there can be no possibility of the department pleading cost or confidentiality issues.
The DWP will drag it out, but eventually they will almost certainly have to hand over a copy.
Meanwhile, you can read the full correspondence on the work and pensions committee website