DWP accused of ‘operating behind a wall of secrecy’

Therese Coffey accused of concealing the findings of reports into the impact of Tory welfare reforms.

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The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has been accused of deliberately hiding the findings of reports into the impact of Tory welfare reforms on vulnerable groups.

DWP boss Therese Coffey has resisted efforts by charities and others to release a “swathe of reports”, which were carried out to examine how welfare changes have affected the poor and vulnerable.

This is despite commitments made by her predecessors at the DWP to make the reports available for examination and public scrutiny.

Policy adviser at Disability Rights UK Ken Butler said: “We’re not talking about just one report and one subject.

“We’re talking about a whole swathe of reports about important aspects of the system.

“The DWP are operating behind a wall of secrecy.”

One report looked at the impact of lowering the benefit cap, which has remained at the same rate since 2016 and limits the amount a household can receive in benefits to £23,000 in London and £13,400 outside of the Capital.

It is estimated that 1.3 million children have been harmed by the cap because affected families have been left struggling to afford food and other basic neccessities.

A second report explored the accessibility of the Government’s website, which charities say is of extreme importance to disabled people and those who use the website to apply for social security benefits, such as Universal Credit.

The deaths of benefit claimants was the focus of a third report. The DWP were earlier forced to admit the Department had conducted 140 internal reviews into benefit-related deaths.

A fourth report examined Universal Credit and how effective the new benefit, which replaces so-called ‘legacy benefits’, is in supporting claimants and if some people were left worse off by the change.

Coffey also said she was “not committing” to publish statistics on Universal Credit Work Capability Assessments.

Ken Butler added: “We’re being told this isn’t a priority at the moment and basically being dismissed.

“When you’re moving two million disabled people on to a new benefit all these issues are really relevant.

“Even the DWP has acknowledged that disabled people have a lack of trust in the DWP.

“Although they say they want to improve trust and improve transparency, they are actually not publishing information that’s open to scrutiny and that is deeply concerning.”

Another report looked at the impact of sanctions on benefit claimants and whether the practice of withholding payments ‘encouraged’ people to look for work.

Another looked into the many barriers unpaid carers face when trying to find work and what could be done to address these obstacles to employment.

Therese Coffey outlined her reasons for not publishing the reports in a letter to the work and pensions committee, in which she states: “We have been clear that where requests relate to research that is informing ongoing policy development, the department reserves the right to withhold it.

“It is important that ministers consider research and its publication on a case-by-case basis.

“I do understand the close interests of the committee in research that informs policy, but it is not the case that we committed to publish all research commissioned by a secretary of state, including research commissioned by my predecessors.”

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