Financial Investigations Unit

A.James made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Child Maintenance Service

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Child Maintenance Service.

Dear Child Maintenance Service,

Please provide me with the following information in relation to the "Financial Investigations Unit" of the Child Maintenance Service:

- Number of staff employed by the unit
- Any minimum qualifications for staff working within the unit and copies of the on job or preliminary training undertaken by such staff
- Copies of their policies and procedures; including any legal guidance that is routinely relied on during the course of their work
- A copy of the process whereby a case would be assigned to an individual within the Financial investigation unit.

Yours faithfully,

A.James

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Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

3 Atodiad

 
 
 
Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for providing the information some of the information relating to the Financial Investigations Unit of the CMG.

I note that in response to my question of

"Copies of their policies and procedures; including any legal guidance that is routinely relied on during the course of their work"

You have refused to provide the information citing Section 31(a) and 31(b) of the FOIA 2000 and stated that

"Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public body does not have the obligation to release information which would restrict the prevention and detection of crime and actions related to the
apprehension of criminals. "

In relation to your reliance on paragraphs a and b of Section 31 please provide the following by way of justification:

- A copy of the notes and decision making process with regards to the public interest test that applies to Section 31 showing clearly how you have come to this decision and the weighing exercise you undertook.
- Documentation relating to the prejudice test conducted in respect of this decision showing your reasoning and how disclosure of the documentation would prejudice the "prevention or detection of crime or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders".

I note the following sentences occur in the document "Annex B Financial Investigation Unit.pdf" :

"The FIU investigate suspected criminal activities. It will also deal with, or provide advice on complicated issues around both employed and self-employed income, advising caseworkers on any issues around director’s income, including variations."

In relation to this I am now requesting the following:

- Copies of their policies and procedures; including any legal guidance that is routinely relied on during the course of their work in their function to "provide advice on complicated issues around both employed and self-employed income, advising caseworkers on any issues around director’s income, including variations." (i.e. non criminal functions).
- Please advise how many Criminal Prosecutions have been launched using information provided either wholly or in part by the FIU within the CMG for calendar year 2016 and YTD 2017.
- An organisational chart showing clearly reporting lines and responsibilities from the most junior member of the department up to the most senior individual with responsibility for the actions taken by the department (including all senior civil servants, junior and senior elected officials).

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
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Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

1 Atodiad

 
 
 
A James
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
 
 
 

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for your response to my questions relating to the FIU within the CMG of the Department of Work and Pensions. I note that you claim that you do not keep records of the public interest decisions and prejudice tests relating to my initial request (VTR3653).

As you have not provided information to my satisfaction that the exemptions laid out in Section 31 (a) and (b) were correctly applied I am requesting an internal review of the response to the the original decision. In your answer to the internal review, in the event that you decide to uphold the original decision, I am requesting that you lay out your reasoning clearly (with the notes to each of the relevant tests) in your response.

With respect to the request VTR3924 I am also requesting an internal review on the answer provided on October 9th 2017.

In particular, your reliance on Section 42 to my question of

"Copies of their policies and procedures; including any legal guidance that is routinely relied on during the course of their work in their function to "provide advice on complicated issues around both employed and self-employed income, advising caseworkers on any issues around director’s income, including variations." (i.e. non criminal functions)."

As you will be well aware, Section 42 relates to Legal Professional Privilege (LPP) which protects confidential communications between lawyers and clients.

Request VTR3924 did not request information on specific cases but was concerned with the policies and procedures and legal guidance "routinely relied on" in the course of their work. Essentially, I am looking for the FIU's equivalent of "Policies, Law and Decision Making Guidance" which is used by other staff within the CMG.

At this point, I would also request that you disclose the Act's or Regulations (citing Sections where necessary) that give the FIU its statutory authority. If not clear from the legislation, please provide a list of investigatory powers available to the FIU and include a list of systems that are used by FIU investigators in the course of their work. If they use a centralised system, please provide a copy of the RFP used to tender for its development and disclose who administers the system (if a private organisation).

Please provide copies of the notes to the public interest test showing reasoning for whatever decision you come to in the internal review of VTR3924.

With respect to the organisational chart, please provide a copy with personal information redacted.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

2 Atodiad

 
 
 
A James
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
 
 
 

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for your response to IR501.

Unfortunately your answer is wanting in a number of areas and thus I am writing to you to address these now.

Firstly, you have provided an incomplete (redacted) organisational chart. In an earlier response to VTR3653 you claimed there were 58 employees within the FIU. However, your organisational chart only shows 10 employees of the FIU (I have excluded Marc Gill as he is clearly not a full time employee within the FIU. Please reissue the chart showing a complete picture of the headcount within the FIU.

Secondly, your response to the refusal to supply the policies and procedures of the FIU is not accepted. Firstly, I did not ask the DWP for an assessment of what they consider to be "fair" child maintenance. Nor do I have any interest in such an opinion.

You have said

"The release of this information would support those parents who wish to avoid paying fair child maintenance, by providing them detailed information on how to avoid detection methods used by FIU and HMRC to investigate fraudulent crime".

You also say

"this information could also be used as a guide for individuals who wish to commit fraud"

To use such logic is a total nonsense and would be similar to someone saying "we are not going to tell you how we investigate theft as it may encourage people to steal". Presumably the FIU follows a process when a case is passed to them by others in the Child Maintenance Service. This process may include things like requesting banking information from banks, building societies etc. It may also involve credit checks, internet history searches and other intrusive methods in an attempt to implicate someone.

None of this would be harmed by the disclosure of the information I have requested and your reliance on

I have reviewed the legislation you have cited (2012 Child Support Maintenance Calculation Regulations and The Child Support(Collection and Enforcement) Regulations 1992) and can see nothing in there about a general intrusive power granted to the Child Maintenance Service to fish around in the affairs of law abiding citizens who happen to have a case with the Child Maintenance Service. Thus, it is my belief that the FIU is a department acting Ultra Vires within the Department of Work and Pensions and should you not disclose the documents I have requested for this department of the Civil Service then I will be making a comprehensive complaint to the ICO and am willing to take this to a Tribunal should the circumstances warrant it.

You say "For non criminal complex earner cases and variations we use the Policy, Law and Decision Making Guidance (PLDMG) and the relevant tax legislation forself-employed which is the Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act and the Child support maintenance calculations regulations 2012.

With regards to applying Section 42; some of these cases will involve criminal activities which are highlighted through the investigations; if these investigations enter into criminal proceedings, lawyers will be involved.
Section 42 is exempt information."

You have also made reference to PLDMG in the response. To be clear, are you saying this is exempt information under Section 42? Is this information not available to all caseworkers in the Child Maintenance Service so it is unclear what further "advice" the FIU would be able to offer? At no point did I request information on SPECIFIC CASES where legal action may be in place but concerned by request with departmental policies and process.

So, once again;

- Please disclose the policies and procedures used by the FIU in handling cases from the point at which it is passed to their hands to the point at which is leaves their responsibility.

IMPORTANT NOTE:
If you continue to refuse then please provide an index of the documents (with titles) that you are refusing to disclose so, should it become necessary to involve the ICO or HMCTS I will be able to state in precise terms what you are refusing to divulge.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

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Gadawodd A.James anodiad ()

There is very little information on the activities of this department of the Civil Service.

The DWP do not want to release the information on their activities as it is my belief that they know full well that what they are doing is arguably unlawful.

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

2 Atodiad

 
 
 
A James
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for your response and the updated organisational chart.

I note that you have ignored the following part of my request for an internal review

"IMPORTANT NOTE:
If you continue to refuse then please provide an index of the documents (with titles) that you are refusing to disclose so, should it become necessary to involve the ICO or HMCTS I will be able to state in precise terms what you are refusing to divulge."

Please therefore provide the index of the documents you are refusing to divulge.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
  
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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd The VoiceOfTheChild.org.uk anodiad ()

They will not want you to have this set of full policies and procedures:
https://voiceofthechild.org.uk/cms-full-...

Hope this helps

Voice of the Child

Gadawodd Greg p anodiad ()

Something of interest maybe 😀

Home Department for Work and Pensions group Department for Work and Pensions Group CMG Financial Investigation Unit
CMG Financial Investigation Unit
02 Nov 2017
In October CMG management told PCS of its intentions regarding Financial Investigation Unit staff. Management advised that a number of the staff within CMG Financial Investigation Unit had been offered the opportunity to undertake a professional qualification which was required for the FIU role and that a number of those members had turned down the training.
PCS was advised that they did so on the understanding that this was a required qualification for the role and in electing not to undertake the qualification that they were aware that they would be electing to be redeployed to other roles within CMG.

PCS questioned the training for the qualification and was told that it was an externally provided residential training course lasting 8 weeks. We were advised that many of the members had turned down the opportunity to undertake the training as a result of their home commitments.

PCS has called upon the employer to offer these members the opportunity to reconsider their decision should they now wish to undertake the training, if they wanted to remain in the role. CMG management agreed to our request.

PCS also sought agreement that management would undertake discussions with the training provider to seek the training being provided on a more flexible basis. We argued that this would be a reasonable adjustment for members with requirements that prevent them undertaking the course on a full-time basis. CMG management agreed to seek agreement on this with the training provider.

If members in FIU have received a different message, or if they would like to undertake the training and remain in their role, they should speak to their line manager and seek support from their local branch rep to accompany them to any 1-2-1 discussions on the matter.

If there are any problems you should flag them up with your local representative who can escalate to group office if required.

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

2 Atodiad

 
 
 
A James
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Thank you for your email today attaching the response to IR565 along with the "Information Gathering" pdf.

I am concerned that the Information Gathering pdf was not provided in the first instance.

Despite this, your Internal Review response again omitted the Index I had requested. I note that you have attempted to pre-judge what the ICO would say in the event of a complaint by saying that

"In September 2017 the Information Commissioner confirmed that DWP was entitled to withhold some information in relation to Information Gathering within on the basis of s.36(2)(c) FOIA; disclosure of the relevant guidance would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, and the
public interest favoured maintaining the exemption."

This cites reliance on an exemption contained within section 36 of the FOIA. Your department has also previously attempted to rely on Section 42 and Section 31 as justification to withhold the information requested.

I am aware of increased interest in the Child Maintenance Service that is attracting press attention specifically relating to the Financial Investigation Unit, its operations and its management.

You have previously provided documents relating to other areas of the Child Maintenance service to other individuals so reliance on a Section 36 exemption seems peculiar.

So, once again and in CAPITAL LETTERS to make it absolutely clear what I am asking the DWP to provide. Note this is NOT an internal review request:

IF YOU CONTINUE TO WITHHOLD THE INFORMATION REQUESTED IN VTR3653 , PLEASE PROVIDE AN INDEX (INCLUDING DOCUMENT TITLES), OF THE DOCUMENTS YOU ARE REFUSING TO DIVULGE SO THAT I CAN UTILISE THE ALTERNATIVE ROUTES AVAILABLE IN COMPELLING THE DWP TO DISCLOSE THE INFORMATION. THE INDEX IS REQUIRED SO THAT I CAN BE CLEAR ON WHAT THE DWP IS REFUSING TO DISCLOSE.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

1 Atodiad

 
Dear Mr James
 
Please find attached our response to your recent Freedom of Information
request.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
DWP Central Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

You have previously said

"In September 2017 the Information Commissioner confirmed that DWP was entitled to withhold some information in relation to Information Gathering within on the basis of s.36(2)(c) FOIA; disclosure of the relevant guidance would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs, and the public interest favoured maintaining the exemption."

Clearly, whatever basis the ICO was refering to would have been based on an argument put forward by a party other than myself as to why the information should be disclosed.

Please can you therefore disclose the following under the FOIA:

- The correspondence sent to the ICO which resulted in them providing that guidance. I am interested in any and all correspondence sent by the DWP to the ICO and/or the complaining party.
- Any and all communication sent by the ICO to the DWP in relation to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

1 Atodiad

Dear A James,
 
Please find attached the reply to your recent Freedom of Information
request reference number FOI 103:
 
 
 
Thank you,
 
DWP Freedom of Information Team
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Operations FOI Requests,

Your response is rather confusing as I did not ask again for the information that you are alleging is exempt. What I asked for was the communication sent by the DWP to the ICO and the resulting guidance (in its original form) that the DWP received back from the ICO (and that you are apparently relying on in your refusal to disclose the documentation I originally requested).

It is deeply concerning that, as a Department of Government, the DWP apparently feels so comfortable withholding information and acting contrary to the principles of open and transparent government in the public interest.

Please supply the requested correspondence forthwith.

Yours sincerely,

A.James

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
  
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dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Operations FOI Requests, Child Maintenance Service

1 Atodiad

 
 
 
A James
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
 
 
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd A.James anodiad ()

As they have refused under Section 12 of the FOI Act I've got to wait until April 9th 2018 to re-send the simple request that they won't answer.

Clock is ticking.......tick tock