Dear DWP FoI team,

I am writing to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 regarding the "substantial risk" clause in disability benefits guidance.

I am specifically seeking the following information:

Part 1: Any information or records indicating whether the DWP was aware of the 2015 change to guidance related to the "substantial risk" clause and why this change was not disclosed to MPs.

Part 2: A summary of the key reasons and justifications provided by the DWP for considering the removal or weakening of the "substantial risk" clause from disability benefits guidance in the past five years.

Part 3: Any significant records or communications (up to a maximum of 10) regarding the DWP's response to questions or concerns raised by MPs, disability rights organisations, or the public about the proposed changes and the historical context of the "substantial risk" clause.

I understand that certain information may be sensitive or confidential; however, I believe that the public has a right to access information about government decisions and policies that could significantly affect the lives of disabled individuals in the UK. I request that any redactions or omissions made to protect sensitive information be clearly justified and explained.

Please provide this information in electronic format, if possible, and within the statutory timeframe of 20 working days, as stipulated by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I look forward to receiving the requested information within the specified timeframe.

Yours faithfully,

Amanda Hart
for Stop UK lies and Corruption

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

Thank you for contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
 
This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received by the DWP Freedom of Information mailbox and will be
processed accordingly.
 
Please note that this mailbox is for Freedom of Information (FOI) or
Internal Review (IR) requests only – If you have submitted a non FOI or IR
related email then we may not be able to action it.
 
 
Timescales for responding
 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests
 
If your email is a valid FOI request, as per Section 8 of the FOI Act
2000, you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Internal Review (IR) Requests
 
You can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
We will respond to all valid FOI and IR requests within our statutory
timescales, if we are unable to do so then we will contact you to explain
why. Please note that we are not able to process your FOI or IR request in
any shorter timescales that you may indicate.
 
 
Receiving a response from us
 
Please note that email FOI and IR responses will be issued from
[email address]
 
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk by your email account
provider.  
 
 
Further Information
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with your FOI or IR
request please contact us.
 
More information on the DWP can be accessed on gov.uk here –
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gov.uk,

1 Atodiad

Thank you for your Freedom of Information (FoI) request received on 8th
September

Please see attached letter.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me quoting the
reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

Central FOI Team,
Department for Work and Pensions

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Ref: FOI2023/61561
Please note this FoI request does not belong to us. As such it still needs to be directed to whoever requested it.

Yours faithfully,

Amanda Hart

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

Thank you for contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
 
This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received by the DWP Freedom of Information mailbox and will be
processed accordingly.
 
Please note that this mailbox is for Freedom of Information (FOI) or
Internal Review (IR) requests only – If you have submitted a non FOI or IR
related email then we may not be able to action it.
 
 
Timescales for responding
 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests
 
If your email is a valid FOI request, as per Section 8 of the FOI Act
2000, you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Internal Review (IR) Requests
 
You can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
We will respond to all valid FOI and IR requests within our statutory
timescales, if we are unable to do so then we will contact you to explain
why. Please note that we are not able to process your FOI or IR request in
any shorter timescales that you may indicate.
 
 
Receiving a response from us
 
Please note that email FOI and IR responses will be issued from
[email address]
 
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk by your email account
provider.  
 
 
Further Information
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with your FOI or IR
request please contact us.
 
More information on the DWP can be accessed on gov.uk here –
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

1 Atodiad

Dear Amanda Hart

We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Unfortunately, due to an administrative error on our part this letter was attached to your FOI record and issued to you in error, we are aware that as a consequence of our actions this has resulted in a data breach, as we have provided you with the personal information of a third party for which we are very sorry. We have taken the appropriate action.

Please find attached the response that was intended for yourself.

Once again, we are sorry for any inconvenience caused and we thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

Yours sincerely,

Central FOI Team,
Department for Work and Pensions

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Internal review if no response by 4th November 2023

Gadawodd James C Kelsall anodiad ()

The extension notice is dated the 6th, but clearly due to the error it didn't send the notice to you until the 9th. The notice has to be sent on or before the deadline in order for it to be valid.

Without a valid extension notice, a lack of response within the deadline is unlawful.

You could request an Internal Review now on this basis if you wanted (although I doubt it would speed up their response).

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request 'Information about "Substantial Risk" clause'. Ref: FOI2023/69072

I would like to bring to your attention that on 6th October 2023, I received a response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), but it was an extension notice intended for another individual, Mr. Jake Hurfurt, with reference number FOI2023/61561. This was an error that resulted in a data breach, as personal information intended for another requester was sent to me: [https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/1...

On 9th October 2023, I received an acknowledgment of this error from the DWP, along with a PIT notice dated 6th October 2023.

My specific concerns are as follows:

1 The initial error in sending the incorrect extension notice intended for Mr. Jake Hurfurt.
2 The fact that, according to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, in order for the extension notice to be valid it must be provided no later than the date on the extension (Section 10(3)). As you have failed to do this the notice is not valid.

I believe that the FOI process should adhere to established procedures and timelines to ensure transparency and accountability.

I expect the internal review to address these concerns, including compliance with the requirement that extension notices be provided by the date on the extension, as outlined in Section 10(3) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and provide a clear explanation of the actions taken to prevent similar errors from happening again.

Please conduct this internal review promptly, and I request that you communicate the findings and any necessary corrective actions to me in a timely manner. I look forward to a swift resolution to this matter.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

Regards,

Amanda Hart
Stop UK lies and Corruption.

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

Thank you for contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
 
This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received by the DWP Freedom of Information mailbox and will be
processed accordingly.
 
Please note that this mailbox is for Freedom of Information (FOI) or
Internal Review (IR) requests only – If you have submitted a non FOI or IR
related email then we may not be able to action it.
 
 
Timescales for responding
 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests
 
If your email is a valid FOI request, as per Section 8 of the FOI Act
2000, you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Internal Review (IR) Requests
 
You can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
We will respond to all valid FOI and IR requests within our statutory
timescales, if we are unable to do so then we will contact you to explain
why. Please note that we are not able to process your FOI or IR request in
any shorter timescales that you may indicate.
 
 
Receiving a response from us
 
Please note that email FOI and IR responses will be issued from
[email address]
 
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk by your email account
provider.  
 
 
Further Information
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with your FOI or IR
request please contact us.
 
More information on the DWP can be accessed on gov.uk here –
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Thanks James. I missed that but I need to bring it up.

freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gov.uk,

1 Atodiad

Dear Amanda Hart,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 11th
October.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gov.uk,

1 Atodiad

Dear Amanda Hart,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 8th
September.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am formally requesting an internal review of the Department for Work and Pensions' handling of my Freedom of Information request, specifically concerning the 'Information about "Substantial Risk" clause', under reference number FOI2023/69072.

While we acknowledge your compliance with the disclosure requirements for questions 1 and 2, our primary concern centres on your failure to adequately address and provide the information stipulated in question 3.

Legal and Non-Legal Errors

Section 35(1)(a) Exemption: The Department invoked Section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, pertaining to the formulation or development of government policy. The application of the public interest test in this case remains unclear.

Requested Action: I insist that the Department furnish a comprehensive explanation detailing how the public interest test was applied, including the specific factors weighed for and against disclosure.

Inconsistency in Application: The Department disclosed information for Parts 1 and 2 of my request but inexplicably withheld it for Part 3. This inconsistency undermines the uniform application of the FOI Act within a single request.

Requested Action: I demand that the Department clarify the rationale behind the selective disclosure and either release the withheld information for Part 3 or provide a legally sound justification for its continued withholding.

Lack of Specificity: The Department's response fails to delineate which elements of my third question are considered to relate to the formulation or development of government policy. This vagueness obscures the scope of the exemption applied.

Requested Action: I require the Department to explicitly identify which segments of my third question are subject to the formulation or development of government policy and to substantiate the application of the exemption to those specific segments.

You initially indicated a need for an extended period to conduct a Public Interest Test, only to subsequently conclude that the public interest does not merit the disclosure of the information. This conclusion is unacceptable for the following reasons:

Public Interest Statements

The public interest in this case is overwhelmingly in favour of disclosure for reasons including, but not limited to, Transparency and Accountability, Informed Public Debate, Trust in Public Institutions, Media Interest, Public Welfare, Democratic Engagement, Scrutiny of Decision-Making, ongoing United Nations investigations into UK Government's treatment of disabled people, Legal Consistency, Resource Allocation, Historical Record, Ethical Governance, Public Confidence, Informed Consent, and Social Justice.

I fully anticipate that the internal review will address these enumerated concerns and offer a transparent explanation for any further withholding of information. I insist that this review be conducted expeditiously, and that its findings and any subsequent corrective actions be communicated to me without delay.

Should the Department continue to deny the release of this information, I wish to make it clear that I am prepared to mount a robust case to the Information Commissioner's Office to secure its release.

A comprehensive history of my FOI request and all related correspondence is publicly accessible at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

I await your prompt resolution of this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Amanda Hart
Stop UK Lies and Corruption

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

Thank you for contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
 
This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received by the DWP Freedom of Information mailbox and will be
processed accordingly.
 
Please note that this mailbox is for Freedom of Information (FOI) or
Internal Review (IR) requests only – If you have submitted a non FOI or IR
related email then we may not be able to action it.
 
 
Timescales for responding
 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests
 
If your email is a valid FOI request, as per Section 8 of the FOI Act
2000, you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Internal Review (IR) Requests
 
You can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
We will respond to all valid FOI and IR requests within our statutory
timescales, if we are unable to do so then we will contact you to explain
why. Please note that we are not able to process your FOI or IR request in
any shorter timescales that you may indicate.
 
 
Receiving a response from us
 
Please note that email FOI and IR responses will be issued from
[email address]
 
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk by your email account
provider.  
 
 
Further Information
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with your FOI or IR
request please contact us.
 
More information on the DWP can be accessed on gov.uk here –
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Inform ICO if no valid response by 29th December 2023

freedom-of-information-request@dwp.gov.uk,

1 Atodiad

Dear Amanda Hart,

I am writing in response to your request for information, received 31st
October.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

Notice of Escalation to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) - FOI Request Ref: FOI2023/69072

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write to formally inform you of my decision to escalate this matter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). This decision arises from my profound dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has thus far handled my Freedom of Information (FOI) request, reference number FOI2023/69072.

On 8th September 2023, I submitted a comprehensive FOI request seeking information regarding the "Substantial Risk" clause within disability benefits guidance. While the DWP has provided responses to certain aspects of my request, several glaring deficiencies persist in the responses, necessitating independent scrutiny by the ICO.

1. Inconsistency in Application: It is deeply concerning that the DWP has displayed inconsistency in its application of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The DWP released information related to Parts 1 and 2 of my request, yet it chose to withhold information under the Section 35(1)(a) exemption for Part 3.

While the DWP asserts that its initial response aligns with standard FOIA practices, a closer examination reveals that the inconsistency observed in the application of FOIA exemptions remains a valid concern. The request-specific nature of FOIA decisions necessitates a more detailed and context-specific justification for exemption choices, which was lacking in the response. This underscores the need for an independent review by the ICO to ensure procedural fairness and transparency in the handling of FOIA requests.

2. Lack of Specificity: The internal review response claims that the Section 35(1)(a) exemption was appropriately applied to Part 3 of the request because the information relates to the formulation and development of government policy concerning the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) Consultation. However, several concerns remain:

Your response mentions that the information covered by Part 3 pertains to the formulation and development of government policy. However, it lacks the necessary specificity to clarify which segments or aspects of Part 3 fall under this exemption. To ensure transparency, the FOIA requires public authorities to provide clear and specific justifications for withholding information. Without this level of detail, it remains unclear which portions of the request are genuinely exempted.

3. Public Interest Test: The assertion that safeguarding the policy-making process takes precedence over the substantial public interest in transparency and accountability is a matter of profound concern, particularly after the United Nations has already established that the UK government had committed grave and systemic abuses against disabled people in the UK in violation of the CRPD protocol.

While it is acknowledged that the timing of a request can influence the application of exemptions, the response does not clarify how this timing impacts the specific information requested in Part 3. It remains unclear why discussions with external stakeholders during an ongoing consultation would harm the policy development process and why this potential harm justifies the exemption.

Your internal review response does not adequately address the remaining concerns regarding adherence to public interest considerations. It lacks a detailed balancing test that evaluates specific factors, does not sufficiently clarify the impact of timing and ongoing consultations, and does not provide a transparent explanation of how the public's right to know aligns with the need to protect the policy-making process.

In conclusion, my decision to involve the ICO is not taken lightly; rather, it arises from a genuine and resolute commitment to secure a fair and impartial review of my FOI request and the DWP's responses. I anticipate that the ICO will undertake a comprehensive examination of this matter, taking into full consideration the legitimate concerns I have articulated with your department on this matter.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, but I must now take this case up with the ICO.

Yours faithfully,

Amanda Hart
For Stop UK Lies and Corruption

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Adran Gwaith a Phensiynau

Thank you for contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
 
This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received by the DWP Freedom of Information mailbox and will be
processed accordingly.
 
Please note that this mailbox is for Freedom of Information (FOI) or
Internal Review (IR) requests only – If you have submitted a non FOI or IR
related email then we may not be able to action it.
 
 
Timescales for responding
 
Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests
 
If your email is a valid FOI request, as per Section 8 of the FOI Act
2000, you can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Internal Review (IR) Requests
 
You can normally expect a response within 20 working days.
 
We will respond to all valid FOI and IR requests within our statutory
timescales, if we are unable to do so then we will contact you to explain
why. Please note that we are not able to process your FOI or IR request in
any shorter timescales that you may indicate.
 
 
Receiving a response from us
 
Please note that email FOI and IR responses will be issued from
[email address]
 
We recommend that you add this address to your email contacts otherwise
the response may be treated as Spam or Junk by your email account
provider.  
 
 
Further Information
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with your FOI or IR
request please contact us.
 
More information on the DWP can be accessed on gov.uk here –
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Reported to ICO.

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

ICO assigned case ref IC-270417-X1J6 to the FOI complaint and a separate case ref for DWP's data protection blunder.

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Next chase 4th January 2024

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Requested an update on this case and data protection investigation.

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Received update from ICO on 8th January 2024.

Gadawodd Amanda Hart anodiad ()

Matter resolved with thanks to ICO working with DWP.

Since we made the request they created this content and we have been directed to paragraphs 69-74. This satisfies the outstanding portion of our request.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultati...

69. On LCWRA Substantial Risk, consultation responses expressed deep concern about the risks of harm and potentially an increased risk of death by suicide if the safety net of LCWRA Substantial Risk is removed. We have listened to these concerns and agree that LCWRA risk should be preserved for the most vulnerable. However, we maintain that changes still need to be made to ensure that LCWRA Substantial Risk is applied appropriately, so claimants are not excluded unnecessarily from support that is available to them. We do not think it is right that so many people are being placed in the LCWRA group and therefore receive no help from DWP. We know that most people with severe and enduring mental health conditions want to work, and that with the right support many can. We want to ensure that those who are safely able to engage receive all of the support that they are entitled to so they can move towards work if they are able.

70. The Substantial Risk criteria were intended to provide a safety net when there is evidence that there would be a substantial risk to mental or physical health if a claimant were found not to have LCW or LCWRA. The original policy intent for Substantial Risk was for it to be advised only in exceptional circumstances. However, with almost 1 in 7 new claims awarded LCWRA under Substantial Risk in 2022, this has gone beyond that threshold.

71. We will be taking forward changes which keep LCWRA Substantial Risk as a safety net for those with the most severe mental or physical health conditions, but sets out clearly when this should apply. In the consultation document, we explored defining a minimum level of work-related activity to support this group. Having considered consultation feedback carefully, we have chosen instead to emphasise protecting the most vulnerable claimants affected by these changes while ensuring those who can safely engage in meaningful activity can move towards work with the right support.

72. This change will include amending regulations to specify the circumstances and the serious mental health conditions for which LCWRA risk should apply. This will include safeguarding the most vulnerable, such as people in crisis under home treatment teams and those with an active psychotic illness. We will work alongside clinicians to define the criteria and the medical evidence needed from claimants and people involved in their care, to ensure the process is safe, fair, and clear.

73. Claimants who are no longer found to have LCWRA under Substantial Risk following the changes will instead be found LCW under the Substantial Risk provisions. These provisions will recognise there would be a risk if the claimant were to work, but that they would be able to undertake some work preparation activities safely. This will mean they do not need to look for work but will be supported to undertake appropriate work preparation activity that helps them move closer to work in the future. Those impacted by the change will receive tailored, personalised support to ensure any work preparation activity is aligned to their needs, so they are able to effectively manage their condition. We know that for large numbers of people meaningful activity can be beneficial to their overall health and wellbeing.

74. We will assess eligibility for Substantial Risk without claimants having to participate in an assessment with a healthcare professional, and therefore avoiding some of the stress and anxiety for vulnerable claimants in the assessment process. People found to have LCWRA through the new Substantial Risk rules will have their position re-assessed at the appropriate time to see if their condition has changed.