DWP To Be Investigated Over Refusal To Publish Reviews Into Benefit Deaths

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is facing an investigation into its refusal to publish ‘secret’ reviews into 49 benefit-related deaths, it has reported today.

The investigation was launched by the Information Commissioners Office following a complaint from Disability News Service (DNS).

A number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, including from DNS, demanding that the DWP publish its reviews into benefit-related deaths have been rebuffed by the department.

Officials have since admitted that of the 49 reviews the DWP has carried out so far, 33 included a recommendation to make improvements and 40 were made in response to an apparent suicide.

The DWP says publishing the reviews could represent a breach of section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act; which states that it would be an offence for a DWP employee to, “disclose without lawful authority any information which he acquired in the course of that employment and which relates to a particular person”.

A complaint from DNS has now sparked an investigation by the information watchdog.

An ICO case officer told DNS:

“The focus of my investigation will be to determine whether the DWP is entitled to rely on section 44 as a basis for refusing to provide the information you requested.

“Should it not be a valid refusal of your request the commissioner will also determine what information can be provided within the appropriate cost limit.”

DNS says the investigation is likely to take a number of months. And in the event that investigators rule against the DWP they could still appeal the decision.

If you need help and support please contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit their website.

Source –  Weekly Welfare,  17 Apr 2015

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