ESA SG - Claimants called in for interviews with JCP Work Coaches

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

The letter reproduced on the following web site was sent to a person assigned to the ESA Support Group.
http://www.katebelgrave.com/2015/04/so-w...

The DWP responses to the following FOI requests
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/v...

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

suggest that periodic checking of benefit claims falls with the purview of performance management officers.

Other information disclosed by the DWP suggests that the DWP must have cause (i.e. it can’t just refer a case without evidence) to believe that a benefit claim is suspect and any investigation would fall within the purview of the new joint fraud and error service.

Please supply me with the following information:

Q1. Please confirm that the roles of the performance management officer and fraud and error team described above remain current and correct.

Q2. Please direct me to the clause/section within the job description of work coaches that includes period checks of ESA claims by calling claimants (including those in the ESA Support Group) to attend JCP for an interview?

Q3. Please provide the full job description for a DWP work coach?

Q4. The invitation letter referenced above is tagged on the bottom right hand side as “Conditionality - January 2015”. Conditionality is not a feature of ESA claims where the person has been assigned to the Support Group. Given that the DWP codes and organises its standard correspondence, the letter suggests that it should only be used in correspondence with claimants where conditionality is a feature. Is sending a letter tagged “Conditionality – January 2015” to a person assigned to the ESA Support Group consistent with standard DWP operating processes?

Q5. Please provide any guidance issued to work coaches covering the interviewing people in the ESA Support Group when they attend for interview following receipt of letters of this nature?

Q6. How does the DWP ensure that the work coach does not breach the Welfare Reform Act during such interviews by raising anything that a reasonable person would consider to be work related?

Q7. Please confirm that any person receiving letters of this nature can satisfy any obligation by providing the information by post and does not have to attend a JCP for a formal interview? If not please direct me to the relevant legislation prescribing the imposition of an interview. If the recipient’s obligation can be satisfied by post why is this not stated on the letter?

Q9. Please disclose why the DWP requires the all the data specified in the referenced letter from a person assigned to the ESA Support Group? I’m sure that the DWP is aware that obtaining such data without being able to justify its actions would be a Breach of the Data Protection Act.

Q10. What is the process for the selection of ESA SG claimants for interviews described above? Who (role and organisation) makes the final decision as to whether someone in the ESA SG is sent letters of this nature by JCP work coaches?

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

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Operations FOI Requests, Department for Work and Pensions

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

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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 'ESA SG - Claimants called in for interviews with JCP Work Coaches'.

DWP Reply to Q2

The DWP response is irrelevant. The letter referenced does not talk about voluntary support it is a demand that the person attends and bring the listed information to allow their ESA claim to be checked. I have included the body of the letter here for ease of reading:

“We need to review your Employment and Support Allowance

We periodically need to review your Employment and Support Allowance claim.

Please do not be alarmed about this. We are required to ensure that we are paying you the correct amount of benefit.

We have booked you an appointment with who is a work coach. The meeting will be held on : at . Please bring this letter with you and show it on arrival.

If you cannot keep the appointment or wish to report a change in your circumstances, please contact us immediately on the above number.

Please bring with you:
• Proof of identity - for example, passport or birth certificate or driving licence.
• Your last three months bank statements from all your bank statements, which must show your current name and address.
• Your tenancy agreement or mortgage statement.
• Full birth certificate of all children
• For part time workers, please provide your last three months wage slips
• Evidence of any other income or savings.
You can bring a companion to the meeting to provide support if you wish. The meeting is likely to take around 40 minutes.

We periodically need to review your Employment and Support Allowance claim. Please do not be alarmed about this. We are required to ensure that we are paying you the correct amount of benefit.”

Given that DWP has previously confirmed that the role of checking that ESA claims are correct falls within the role of DWP Performance Measurement Officers and the Fraud and Error department it seems strange that already busy local JCP office would simply take it on themselves to randomly call in people in the ESA SG to check their claims are correct. However, setting this aside the DWP hasn’t responded to my request which I repeat below:

“Q2. Please direct me to the clause/section within the job description of work coaches that includes period checks of ESA claims by calling claimants (including those in the ESA Support Group) to attend JCP for an interview?”

Please note that this is not about voluntary support it is a demand for attendance and supply of personal data. If this activity is not within the job description of work coaches then the DWP has a duty to confirm it.

DWP Reply to Q3
I didn’t ask for the job description for an “ESA Work Coach”, I asked for the job description of a “DWP Work Coach”. Please supply with the information I requested.

If the DWP does not hold a specific job description for the role “DWP Work Coach” please supply me with the most relevant one. Given that people are recruited into the role of “Work Coach” it simply isn’t credible that a relevant job description(s) doesn’t exist

DWP Reply to Q7
I suggest that the DWP response is flawed and incompatible with previous responses. In its response to an FOI response from Mr Wright (Ref 889 Date: 30 March 2015) the DWP stated:

“ESA claimants are being invited to attend our offices on a voluntary basis to talk about the help and support JCP can offer into getting back into some form of work. This is not an initiative uniquely local to Leicester, but something that is being undertaken nationally.”

Therefore to state that “local initiatives exist within local Jobcentres” is a misrepresentation as it is clearly a national initiative known about at the national level.

If as the DWP claim the invitation to attend WFI is not mandatory then there is also no legislative basis upon which the DWP or local JCP offices can cite to provide the data requested in the letter referenced in my request. Therefore, the request for any data falls under the general requirements imposed upon the DWP by the Data Protection Act 1998.

The Data Protection Act 1998 imposes the duty that Data Controllers must ensure that any processing of personal data for which they are responsible complies with the Act. Failure to do so risks enforcement action, even prosecution, and compensation claims from individuals.

Local JCP offices cannot simply decide to demand/request data from people without having lawful reason for doing so. In effect the DWP response states that each JCP Office is a Data Controller in its own right and therefore would be required to register with the Information Commissioner. If the DWP is happy to confirm this, then I’m sure the Information Commissioner would be delighted to investigate to see if each JCP Office needs to be treated as a Data Controller in its own right.

However, as this is a initiative “… that is being undertaken nationally” I’m sure that as a responsible Data Controller the DWP has appropriate processes and policies in place that JCP Offices must follow and will have completed a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). As the DWP will be aware, in 2008 the Government published the Data Handling Review (“DHR”), which outlines the mandatory minimum measures which Government Departments must apply to protect information, including personal data. The responsibilities of Government data controllers should be considered in light of the obligations as set out in the DHR. One of the obligations of the DHR is that it is now mandatory for all Government Departments to carry out PIAs when introducing new policies or processes involving personal data.

Please provide me with a copy of the PIA covering the request/demand for the data set out in the letter referenced and/or covering this national initiative. If none exist then as per the DWP S.1(a) duty please confirm this is the case.

Please provide me with a copy of the relevant processes and controls the DWP is obliged to have in place as a Data Controller that the local JCP offices must comply with when demanding data from claimants. If none exist then as per the DWP S.1(a) duty please confirm this is the case.

The DWP has simply ignored part of my request relating to legislation and supplying data. It simply isn’t credible that the DWP would need to contact each JCP office to find out if it is appropriate for people to supply requested information by post rather than attend an interview. This has been confirmed to be the case in respect of DWP Performance Measurement Officers activities (another national initiative) so it should be possible here. It is also not credible that the DWP does not know if such requests for personal data as part of a national initiative are prescribed by legislation or not.

DWP Reply to Q9.

For many of the same reasons outlined above regarding Q7 it isn’t credible that the DWP as a Data Controller would not know why people were being asked for this information as part of a national initiative as it must be part of the PIA. Please provide the requested information (which would include the PIA requested above).

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

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

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.
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.
 
[1]http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...
 

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References

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1. http://www.dwp.gov.uk/freedom-of-informa...

Operations FOI Requests, Department for Work and Pensions

5 Attachments

 
 
 
Mr Slater
 
Please see copy of your FoI request attached
 
Annex 1
Annex 1a
Annex 1b
 
Annex 2
 
 
 
DWP Freedom of Information Request Team
 
 
 

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