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
An investigation is under way following a radioactive leak at the Torness nuclear power station.
Health and safety officials were alerted after the problem was found during a routine inspection.
The incident was one of three reported to ministers from UK plants which are now under investigation by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
Groundwater at the Dunbar plant was found to be contaminated with radioactive tritium, which was leaking from two pipelines.
They were serious enough to be reported to ministers under safety guidelines agreed after the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine 25 years ago.
According to the ONR, the response to the incidents from the companies that run the plants was “appropriate”.
The pipelines at Torness were put out of use after the leak was discovered.
A spokeswoman for EDF Energy, the French company which operates Torness, said there had never been any danger to staff or the public, and that the levels of radioactivity that leaked were “extremely low.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) added:
“SEPA was informed by British Energy Generation Limited (BEGL) in February 2011 that routine sampling had detected a very small leak in a pipe leading to raised level of tritium in a limited area of groundwater.
“The leak has been stopped and the levels of tritium in the ground water are returning towards normal levels.
“SEPA has investigated the matter and has requested that BEGL carry out further work on the pipe system to demonstrate its integrity in the longer term. This work is due to be completed later this year.
“The matter was discussed at the local liaison group meeting on March 23 which SEPA attended.”
The two-reactor plant began generating in May 1988 and is now over half way through its expected lifespan.
Torness is expected to be decommissioned by around 2023.
With an electrical output of 1250 MW, Torness is capable of supplying power to 1.5 million homes and is one of the biggest employers in the region, with more than 500 staff.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 30 Mar 2015
> I’ve always thought that working in a call centre must be a pretty grim job – I didn’t realise quite how grim…
A call centre manager has launched legal action against one of the region’s biggest employers after being sacked following an incident in which a man was kicked unconscious at his desk.
Mother-of-two Fay Hand was dismissed after bosses said she had not done enough to tackle bullying and harassment among staff at the EE offices, in Darlington.
But the 37-year-old from Wynyard Village, near Stockton, has taken the mobile phone company to an employment tribunal, claiming she was unfairly sacked after 17 years with the company.
The hearing at Teesside Magistrates’ Court was told that an investigation was launched after a call handler kicked a colleague in the head as the man was sitting at his desk, leaving him unconscious.
The attacker later alleged that he had been provoked after being bullied by members of his team.
The man claimed that in one incident three weeks earlier a Fifa computer game was taken from his bag.
The game was later recovered, but a colleague took his car keys from his pocket and removed the game from his car, before holding it to ransom.
Fake disciplinary hearings were also held by team members, the tribunal heard.
Operations manager Mrs Hand was told about the incident with the game by the men’s team leader.
But EE claims Mrs Hand should have done more to prevent the alleged bullying and taken action when she was made aware of it.
Tracey Dawe, EE employee relations specialist, who was involved in Mrs Hand’s disciplinary case, told the hearing: “There should have been an investigation into the alleged taking of the keys.
“She didn’t do enough when she became aware of it.”
However, Ms Dawe agreed it was unfair that Mrs Hand had never been asked to explain during the investigation why she had not taken further action.
The hearing was also told Mrs Hand was not made aware of what Judge Gerald Johnson described as ‘schoolboy pranks‘ which took place among the team – one of eight she managed at the time.
Judge Johnson asked Ms Dawe: “How can she possibly fail to prevent something she doesn’t know anything about? She can’t can she.”
Seven people were sacked following the assault, including the victim, the attacker and the team leader.
The Northern Echo reported in January how Darlington MP Jenny Chapman held talks with EE bosses after concerns were raised about working conditions at the call centre.
Staff claimed that bosses at the company’s Darlington site were acting in an unreasonable and heavy-handed manner.
In response, the company said it took seriously its responsibilities to its staff.
The tribunal continues
> The impression I get after reading that is of battery chickens pecking each other out of frustration. I think I’d rather be on the dole than work in an environment like that.
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Aug 2014