Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Given the recent decision regarding the requirement to release the risk plan for the NHS please provide me with the following for the DWP Universal Credit Programme:

Risk Register / Risk Management Plan
Issues Register / Issues Management plan
High Level Milestone Schedule (Gantt Chart or similar)

Please confirm that the programme is employing a technique generally known as Agile.

Please advise if Agile or similar technique has ever been successfull used by the DWP or its contractors to complete a programme as complex as the Universal Credit Programme.

If the technique has been successfully employed previously please advise on what programmes.

If this technique has not been used previously on a programme of this size and complexity please advise:
Who made the decision to use it given the huge inherent risk?
Why was a technique that at best has a dubious reputation in IT projects felt suitable for a huge change programme?

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also 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...

show quoted sections

References

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Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

The DWP has failed to comply with the statutory 20 day deadline. I am requesting an internal review to provide an explanation for the delay and make sure that the requested data is provided without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

John Slater

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also 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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DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

VTR 1619

Dear Mr Slater,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request of 16 April. You asked
for copies of:

* The Universal Credit Risk Register/Risk Management Plan
* The Universal Credit Issue Register/Issue Management Plan
* The Universal Credit High Level Management Schedule

I confirm that the Department holds this information you requested but
it is being withheld as it falls under the exemption in Section 36 (2)
(b) and (c) of the Freedom of Information Act.

This exemption covers information which if released would, or would be
likely to, prejudice the free and frank provision of advice or which
would otherwise, or would be likely otherwise to, prejudice the
effective conduct of public affairs.

This exemption requires the public interest for and against disclosure
to be balanced.

We recognise that the publication of all the information requested could
provide a greater understanding of the risks, issues and progress steps
of the Universal Credit Programme and so help inform a wider public
debate.

However, we have to balance this against the fact that the withheld
documentation includes details of a sensitive nature whose publication
would prejudice effective conduct of public affairs. There is a strong
public interest in the Department maintaining efficient and effective
programme management and in ensuring that this process is not undermined
by premature disclosure particularly where risks to delivery are not yet
fully mitigated.

There is also a strong public interest in the Department being able to
carry out and use frank assessments, including unrestrained and candid
contributions from business areas.

You also mention the use of Agile development methodology by the
Universal Credit Programme, a methodology that has been widely used in
the private sector, by organisations such as British Gas and BT. You
may be interested to see what the Government's Information and
Communication Technology Strategy says on the subject. I provide you
with a link below to the Strategy on the Cabinet Office website:
http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/...

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

Yours sincerely

Central FoI Team


------------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------

Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal
review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by
writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, 4th Floor Caxton House , Tothill
Street, London SW1H 9NA.. Any review request should be submitted within
two months of the date of this letter.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may
apply directly to the Information Commissioner's Office for a decision.
Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can
be contacted at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk

show quoted sections

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’ handling of my FOI request 'Universal Credit Programme'.

Thank you for your response. With regards to the following:
-The Universal Credit Risk Register/Risk Management Plan
-The Universal Credit Issue Register/Issue Management Plan
-The Universal Credit High Level Management Schedule

I disagree with your assertion regarding section 36 exemption.

As I am sure you are aware Section 36 requires a determination by a ‘qualified person’. It is the only exemption in the Act that has this provision. The exemption under section 36 will only apply if the reasonable opinion of a qualified person is that one of the forms of adverse effect specified in paragraph 2 would follow from disclosing the information. In relation to information held by government, the qualified person must be a Minister. Therefore please provide the documentation from the relevant Minister that explains why they believe the exemption applies.

“Free and frank provision of advice, or exchange of views, for the purposes of deliberation”
Whilst I understand that the FOIA allows the term ‘advice’ to be interpreted widely I fail to see how the 3 documents requested could possibly be regarded as advisory in any way, they are not used for the purposes of exchanging views and certainly are not part of any deliberation. I will take each in turn:

The Universal Credit Risk Register/Risk Management Plan
This document usually contains the perceived risks or threats to the programme. In effect this is ‘crystal ball gazing’ to see what may ‘hurt’ the programme in the future. It should contain actions plans (or mitigation) that have been or are being put in place to reduce, remove, pass on, insure or accept the risk. If the risk register is being used for any of the purposes at apply to the claimed exemption then that is very worrying and raises serious doubts about how the programme is being run.

The Universal Credit Issue Register/Issue Management Plan
This document usually contains identified problems that are currently impacting the programme but are not covered by existing plans, projects etc. This is different to risks in that this deals with problems or opportunities that are happening now and need attention by the programme team. Once again I fail to see how the section 36 exemption applies to this document. This document is a statement of factual information about the programme. Even applying the widest interpretation this document cannot be considered a vehicle for exchanging views or forming part of any deliberation.

The Universal Credit High Level Management Schedule
This is usually a high level representation (usually some form of Gantt chart or list of milestones) of the programme that shows progress of tasks, projects, etc against the last baselined scheduled completion dates. In effect it is the current snapshot of how the programme believes it is progressing against agreed target dates. Whilst this may form part of discussions with Ministers it is clearly wrong to claim that this is advisory, is a vehicle for exchanging views or forming part of any deliberation.

The effective conduct of public affairs
This exemption was added by Parliament to cover residual situations that could not be foreseen where it was necessary to withhold information in the interests of good government. As I am sure you are aware when applying legislation that has such a broad application it is usual to consider the intent of the legislator when drafting said law. Clearly if Parliament considered this exemption for situations that could not be foreseen then this implies that its application must be for very unusual requests. Clearly requesting the release of documents held by a government department relating to a programme of work being undertaken is far from unusual and cannot possibly be regarded as something that could not have been foreseen. Therefore, the DWP is clearly attempting to apply the exemption inappropriately and in my view cannot be applied to my request.

Due to the broad nature of the exemption it is also a requirement that the DWP should have explained clearly why the exemption is engaged, setting out the risk of harm or damage that could result from the release of the information in question. The DWP failed to do this in its response to my request.

Conclusion
The DWP have failed to apply the Section 36 exemption appropriately and in addition have failed to provide the required explanation. Once again it appears that the DWP are ‘blindly’ throwing FOI exemptions around without really understanding what they mean. Therefore I repeat my request for the documents and request that the DWP comply with the FOIA. If they fail to comply I will complain to the OIC.

New Request for Data

However, given that the DWP have confirmed that it holds the documents please provide the following data:
- Start date of UC programme
- Date that each of the listed documents was created and their current version / revision number.
- What triggered the creation of the documents and how long did it take to create them from scratch.?

I note that you have attempted to employ the usual DWP technique of deflecting my question regarding Agile. I am well aware of Agile and how large complex programmes are run professionally as I have been doing it for 20 years. Please do me the courtesy of actually answering my questions which I have listed below again for your convenience:

-Please advise if Agile or similar technique has ever been successfully used by the DWP or its contractors to complete a programme as complex as the Universal Credit Programme?

-If the technique has been successfully employed previously please advise on what programmes.

-If this technique has not been used previously on a programme of this size and complexity please advise:
-Who made the decision to use it given the huge inherent risk?
-Why was a technique that at best has a dubious reputation in IT projects felt suitable for a huge
change programme?

I also raise the following additional questions:
-Why has the DWP not employed MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) and Prince2 for this programme and associated projects?
-Who took the decision not to employ MSP and Prince2 given that they are regarded as the de facto standard by the Government (after all the OGC created them)?

If you refuse to provide answers to my questions or attempt to deflect them again I will raise a complaint with the OIC.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Slater

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also 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...

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear John Slater

Please see the attached letter regarding your FoI request.

Kind regards

DWP Central FoI Team

show quoted sections

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

Thank you for your reply stating that the DWP needs longer to consider the public interest aspects. I think the date of 2nd July appears suspect as it has been given to a number of people who have outstanding FOIA requests.

As I am sure you are aware a public authority must be prepared to justify to the Information Commissioner any time it takes, beyond the 20 working days, to consider disclosure in the public interest.

Unless I receive an appropriate reply (i.e. not another delaying statement) before 17.00 on the 2nd July 2012 I will raise a complaint with the OIC and will write to my MP to ask him to ask the Minister why the data is being withheld without due cause.

Yours sincerely,

John Slater

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been received at the DWP Central FoI Team.

We will forward your request to the relevant information owner within the
Department who will respond to you direct. 

Should you also 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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Jarvis Jay PROFESSIONAL SERVICES IGSD, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Slater,

Please see attached response to your Internal Review request.

Kind regards,

DWP Central FoI Team

From: John Slater [mailto:[FOI #113496 email]]
Sent: 15 May 2012 10:40
To: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Universal Credit Programme

Dear DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request,

The DWP has failed to comply with the statutory 20 day deadline. I
am requesting an internal review to provide an explanation for the
delay and make sure that the requested data is provided without
further delay.

Yours sincerely,

John Slater

show quoted sections

DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request, Department for Work and Pensions

Our Ref: VTR2010

Dear Mr Slater,

Thank you for your recent note making further requests under the Freedom
of Information Act. These I will try to provide below.

Start date of the Universal Credit Programme

The Universal Credit Programme started in November 2011 after the
publication of the White Paper "Universal Credit - Welfare that Works".

Date that each of the listed documents was created and their current
version/issue numbers

Each of the documents was created in November 2011, building on the
documents that the Universal Credit policy team had been maintaining.
The version numbers current at time of writing were:

* Risk register - 03.05.12 - updated at Risk Review Board
* Issues register - 25.05.12 - updated at Issues Steering Group
* High level management schedule - 3.3.1 - updated monthly at the
Programme Board

What triggered the creation of the documents and how long did it
take to create them from scratch?

Such documents are created as a matter of course in all Department for
Work and Pensions projects and programmes, in line with standard project
management principles. As noted above, they were not created from
scratch, but built on the existing work of the Universal Credit policy
team. I am afraid we do not have any information for how long the
documents took to create.

You were provided with a link to the Government's Information and
Communication Technology strategy not as an attempt to deflect you, but
because that document sets out that the Cabinet Office has now stated
that Agile is the preferred project delivery methodology across
Government. The document sets out why Cabinet Office has taken this
decision as well as their views on how projects and programmes across
Government should be managed. We assumed you would be interested to see
the overarching strategy in this regard. I apologise if this assumption
was mistaken.

Please advise if Agile or similar technique has ever been successfully
used by the DWP or its contractors to complete a programme as complex as
the Universal Credit Programme?

DWP have a wide range of IT suppliers and small and medium size
enterprises delivering Universal Credit who have significant experience
in delivering Agile projects and programmes, in both the UK and
globally.

DWP have also engaged with Emergn, an expert Agile medium sized
enterprise, from the outset and they have significant experience in
working with large organisations on large scale Agile Programmes.
Through this engagement we have been able to train a significant number
of DWP staff on Agile techniques.

As for your other questions on the subject of Agile, you maintain that
the use of Agile has a "huge inherent risk" and "a dubious reputation".
These are not opinions with which we would agree (as witnessed by the
Government's ICT strategy). The decision to use Agile was made by the
Universal Credit Programme Board and reflected the fact that Agile
programme delivery can reduce by as much a third the time taken to
deliver, while better managing risk.

We are deploying techniques from Managing Successful Programmes and from
Prince 2 in the Universal Credit Programme. Indeed the Programme
contains numerous staff, at all levels, with Prince 2 qualifications.
You may be interested to know that the Universal Credit Programme is
subject to regular review by the Major Projects Authority, part of
Efficiency Reform Group in Cabinet Office, and also reports to the Major
Projects Review Group, so not only is the work taken forward by the
Office Government Commerce applied internally, it features as part of
the programme of independent assurance applied to the Universal Credit
Programme.

I am writing in response to your request for information, made under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000, which we received on 24 January 2012.
You asked for information about the records of benefit claimants held by
the department and used in its recent revised impact assessment (IA) for
the Household Benefit Cap.

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

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------

Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal
review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by
writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H
9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the
date of this letter.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may
apply directly to the Information Commissioner's Office for a decision.
Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have
exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can
be contacted at: The Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk

show quoted sections

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 'Universal Credit Programme'.

DWP Answer – “The Universal Credit Programme started in November 2011 after the
publication of the White Paper "Universal Credit - Welfare that Works".”

Question - Is this a genuine mistake or yet another deliberate attempt to mislead? The Universal Credit Programme Starting Gate Review Report states:

“The White Paper “Universal Credit: welfare that works”, published on 11 November 2010, sets out the Coalition Government’s plans to introduce legislation to reform the welfare system by creating a new Universal Credit (UC). The main policy intent is a radical simplification of the system to make work pay and to combat worklessness and poverty.”

Anyone reading the answer provided would reasonably believe that by linking the two events that the white paper was published shortly before the UC Programme (UCP) started which is clearly not the case.

Question - Is the DWP absolutely sure that they wish to claim that the UC Programme started in November 2011?

The UCP Starting Gate Review Report (SGRR) is dated 8th March 2011.

Question - Are the DWP really claiming that the Major Projects Authority in the Cabinet Office held a starting gate review almost a year before the programme actually started?

A clue that might help you is that the SGRR uses phrases such as:
“The review team finds that the Programme has got off to an impressively strong start given the demanding timetable and complexity of the design and interdependency with other departments.”

This clearly suggests that the programme was started before the review was held.

DWP Answer – “Date that each of the listed documents as created and their current
version/issue numbers

Each of the documents was created in November 2011, building on the
documents that the Universal Credit policy team had been maintaining.
The version numbers current at time of writing were:

* Risk register - 03.05.12 - updated at Risk Review Board
* Issues register - 25.05.12 - updated at Issues Steering Group
* High level management schedule - 3.3.1 - updated monthly at the
Programme Board

What triggered the creation of the documents and how long did it
take to create them from scratch?

Such documents are created as a matter of course in all Department for
Work and Pensions projects and programmes, in line with standard project
management principles. As noted above, they were not created from
scratch, but built on the existing work of the Universal Credit policy
team. I am afraid we do not have any information for how long the
documents took to create.”

The DWP answer here is very worrying. It is extremely concerning that the programme is not employing version control on the Risk and Issues Registers.

Question - If the Risk Register, Issues Register and schedule weren’t created until November 2011 then how was the programme being professionally managed before the creation of these documents?

Question - If the documents were created prior to the stated date (which the SGRR suggests they were) then why have the DWP lied about the creation date?

In light of your answer regarding the trigger for the creation of these documents and the claim that they are regularly updated please answer the following question:

Question - Is it true that whilst risk and issues registers may have existed they were not being used or updated regularly (as one would expect within a professionally run programme) as the programme team believed that employing the Agile Methodology meant that they didn’t have to? (you might want to consider that I probably already know the answer to this question before answering)

DWP Answer – “Please advise if Agile or similar technique has ever been successfully
used by the DWP or its contractors to complete a programme as complex as
the Universal Credit Programme?

DWP have a wide range of IT suppliers and small and medium size
enterprises delivering Universal Credit who have significant experience
in delivering Agile projects and programmes, in both the UK and
globally.

DWP have also engaged with Emergn, an expert Agile medium sized
enterprise, from the outset and they have significant experience in
working with large organisations on large scale Agile Programmes.
Through this engagement we have been able to train a significant number
of DWP staff on Agile techniques.

As for your other questions on the subject of Agile, you maintain that
the use of Agile has a "huge inherent risk" and "a dubious reputation".
These are not opinions with which we would agree (as witnessed by the
Government's ICT strategy). The decision to use Agile was made by the
Universal Credit Programme Board and reflected the fact that Agile
programme delivery can reduce by as much a third the time taken to
deliver, while better managing risk.”

Once again the DWP has chosen not to answer my question (please do so). Perhaps I can answer it for you. The SGRR states:

• “There are other risks which derive from trying new approaches: the Agile methodology offers much promise but it is unproven on this scale and scope.”
• “UC is the government’s biggest IT-based project based on agile principles.”
• “The challenging timetable for delivery of UC meant that DWP elected to use an Agile approach to the delivery. There is no evidence of such a methodology being used on a public sector programme of such scale and during the course of the review it was evident that there had been some initial scepticism to the use of such a methodology with a programme of this scale.”
• “The review team felt that whilst effectively piloting this methodology on a programme such as UC did pose a risk, this was acceptable in view of the risk of delivery out of line with expectations, for example in terms of timing or quality of service to the public.”
• “One key risk identified by DWP is how an Agile methodology will interact successfully with the various approvals processes that will come into play across the programme.”
• “Overall, the use of an Agile methodology remains unproven at this scale and within UK Government; however, the challenging timescale does present DWP with few choices for delivery of such a radical programme.”

Whilst the review team stated that they believed the DWP had good knowledge about Agile and felt it was appropriate to pilot Agile on the programme it is clear that they also believed that the DWP had little choice given the required delivery timescales.

Given the following recent announcements by:
Iain Duncan Smith MP:
“Iain Duncan Smith (24 May 2012): Early roll out of Universal Credit to go live in Manchester and Cheshire.

Universal Credit will go live in the Greater Manchester and Cheshire region in April 2013 – six months before the national roll-out, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has announced today.

The early roll out of the Government’s flagship new benefit system is expected to see up to 1500 new Universal Credit claimants coming on stream across four areas – Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington - each month. It will test the new simpler, single benefit payment system with local authorities, employers and claimants in a live environment before Universal Credit is rolled out across the country in October 2013.”

And

Liam Byrne MP:
“The government’s enormous Universal Credit scheme appears to be couriering off the tracks, as Ministers are forced to push back their scheme into 2014 as fears grow that DWP can’t answer 5 of the most basic questions on how it will work.

DWP has sneaked out news of an emergency delay to it multi-billion pound Universal Credit programme in its monthly online newsletter.

Universal Credit is already on the Treasury’s watch list of at risk programmes. It requires two enormous IT projects, one in DWP and the other in HMRC, which will have to be knitted together successfully for Universal Credit to be delivered. Are either of these systems on track, and if not, what are the government doing about it?”

Question - Would the DWP like to reconsider the opinion stated previously regarding Agile? Any programme that states it will deliver early in May 2012 and then has to announce a month later that it will slip is exhibiting the classic symptoms of failing.

DWP Answer – “We are deploying techniques from Managing Successful Programmes and from Prince 2 in the Universal Credit Programme. Indeed the Programme contains numerous staff, at all levels, with Prince 2 qualifications. You may be interested to know that the Universal Credit Programme is
subject to regular review by the Major Projects Authority, part of Efficiency Reform Group in Cabinet Office, and also reports to the Major Projects Review Group, so not only is the work taken forward by the Office Government Commerce applied internally, it features as part of the programme of independent assurance applied to the Universal Credit Programme.”

I’m sure that you think that the text above sounds very impressive. However, as someone who worked with Sir Peter Gershon in industry and holds Professional Qualifications in Programme / Project management along with Prince2 (by the way there is no space between Prince and the number 2!) and MSP qualifications it is simply waffle. The DWP might wish to consider the following phrase “You don’t fatten the pig by weighing it”. All the reviews and reports in the world will not actually deliver a programme!

Question - Do any of the programme staff hold qualifications in:
• Risk Management.
• Project Management (Prince2 is a process qualification not a qualification in PM).
• Programme Management (MSP is a process qualification not a qualification in PM).

Qualifications in MSP and Prince2 can be obtained by attending a week long course and do not require any knowledge, experience or expertise in Programme and Project Management. Stating that people within the programme hold these qualifications is no more impressive than stating that they have a photography qualification.

Whilst it is acceptable and advisable to tailor MSP and Prince2 to suit the Programme or Project they are not ‘toolkits’ that one can ‘deploy techniques’ from. Agile is not compatible with MSP or Prince2. The statements the DWP have provided in their answer to my questions so far are clear symptoms of a programme in trouble.

Question – Is it not the case that the Universal Credit Programme is now clearly exhibiting signs of failure (this is a statement of fact not an opinion). Please provide the documents (e.g. Risk Register, Issues Register and High Leven Schedule) that will prove or disprove this.

Given that this is the DWP first response to my additional questions I will wait for 20 days for a response before raising a complaint with the ICO.

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

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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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 'Universal Credit Programme'.

The DWP stated that in its response of 1st June 2012 that it required until the 2nd July to provide a response to my FOIA request of 15th May 2012. As suspected the DWP has failed to respond by the date set and as such I have no option but to make a complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Given that the DWP is blatantly ignoring a number of ‘difficult’ FOIA requests submitted via the WhatDoTheyKnow website I can’t help but believe that the people involved in handling FOIA requests could well be guilty of Misconduct in Public Office (a criminal offense) and are probably in breach of the Civil Service Code.

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

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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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 'Universal Credit Programme'.

In light of your abject failure to respond I have now raised a complaint with the ICO. No doubt they will be in touch with you.

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

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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John Slater left an annotation ()

For anyone looking at this request I have now raised a complaint with the ICO. I will update this request further when I hear back from them.

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Slater,

Please see attached response to your Internal Review request.

Kind regards,

DWP Central FoI Team

From: John Slater [mailto:[FOI #113496 email]]
Sent: 15 May 2012 16:56
To: DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Information-Request
Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Universal
Credit Programme

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' handling of my FOI request 'Universal Credit
Programme'.

Thank you for your response. With regards to the following:
-The Universal Credit Risk Register/Risk Management Plan
-The Universal Credit Issue Register/Issue Management Plan
-The Universal Credit High Level Management Schedule

I disagree with your assertion regarding section 36 exemption.

As I am sure you are aware Section 36 requires a determination by a
'qualified person'. It is the only exemption in the Act that has
this provision. The exemption under section 36 will only apply if
the reasonable opinion of a qualified person is that one of the
forms of adverse effect specified in paragraph 2 would follow from
disclosing the information. In relation to information held by
government, the qualified person must be a Minister. Therefore
please provide the documentation from the relevant Minister that
explains why they believe the exemption applies.

"Free and frank provision of advice, or exchange of views, for the
purposes of deliberation"
Whilst I understand that the FOIA allows the term 'advice' to be
interpreted widely I fail to see how the 3 documents requested
could possibly be regarded as advisory in any way, they are not
used for the purposes of exchanging views and certainly are not
part of any deliberation. I will take each in turn:

The Universal Credit Risk Register/Risk Management Plan
This document usually contains the perceived risks or threats to
the programme. In effect this is 'crystal ball gazing' to see what
may 'hurt' the programme in the future. It should contain actions
plans (or mitigation) that have been or are being put in place to
reduce, remove, pass on, insure or accept the risk. If the risk
register is being used for any of the purposes at apply to the
claimed exemption then that is very worrying and raises serious
doubts about how the programme is being run.

The Universal Credit Issue Register/Issue Management Plan
This document usually contains identified problems that are
currently impacting the programme but are not covered by existing
plans, projects etc. This is different to risks in that this deals
with problems or opportunities that are happening now and need
attention by the programme team. Once again I fail to see how the
section 36 exemption applies to this document. This document is a
statement of factual information about the programme. Even applying
the widest interpretation this document cannot be considered a
vehicle for exchanging views or forming part of any deliberation.

The Universal Credit High Level Management Schedule
This is usually a high level representation (usually some form of
Gantt chart or list of milestones) of the programme that shows
progress of tasks, projects, etc against the last baselined
scheduled completion dates. In effect it is the current snapshot of
how the programme believes it is progressing against agreed target
dates. Whilst this may form part of discussions with Ministers it
is clearly wrong to claim that this is advisory, is a vehicle for
exchanging views or forming part of any deliberation.

The effective conduct of public affairs
This exemption was added by Parliament to cover residual situations
that could not be foreseen where it was necessary to withhold
information in the interests of good government. As I am sure you
are aware when applying legislation that has such a broad
application it is usual to consider the intent of the legislator
when drafting said law. Clearly if Parliament considered this
exemption for situations that could not be foreseen then this
implies that its application must be for very unusual requests.
Clearly requesting the release of documents held by a government
department relating to a programme of work being undertaken is far
from unusual and cannot possibly be regarded as something that
could not have been foreseen. Therefore, the DWP is clearly
attempting to apply the exemption inappropriately and in my view
cannot be applied to my request.

Due to the broad nature of the exemption it is also a requirement
that the DWP should have explained clearly why the exemption is
engaged, setting out the risk of harm or damage that could result
from the release of the information in question. The DWP failed to
do this in its response to my request.

Conclusion
The DWP have failed to apply the Section 36 exemption appropriately
and in addition have failed to provide the required explanation.
Once again it appears that the DWP are 'blindly' throwing FOI
exemptions around without really understanding what they mean.
Therefore I repeat my request for the documents and request that
the DWP comply with the FOIA. If they fail to comply I will
complain to the OIC.

New Request for Data

However, given that the DWP have confirmed that it holds the
documents please provide the following data:
- Start date of UC programme
- Date that each of the listed documents was created and their
current version / revision number.
- What triggered the creation of the documents and how long did it
take to create them from scratch.?

I note that you have attempted to employ the usual DWP technique of
deflecting my question regarding Agile. I am well aware of Agile
and how large complex programmes are run professionally as I have
been doing it for 20 years. Please do me the courtesy of actually
answering my questions which I have listed below again for your
convenience:

-Please advise if Agile or similar technique has ever been
successfully used by the DWP or its contractors to complete a
programme as complex as the Universal Credit Programme?

-If the technique has been successfully employed previously please
advise on what programmes.

-If this technique has not been used previously on a programme of
this size and complexity please advise:
-Who made the decision to use it given the huge inherent risk?
-Why was a technique that at best has a dubious reputation in IT
projects felt suitable for a huge
change programme?

I also raise the following additional questions:
-Why has the DWP not employed MSP (Managing Successful Programmes)
and Prince2 for this programme and associated projects?
-Who took the decision not to employ MSP and Prince2 given that
they are regarded as the de facto standard by the Government (after
all the OGC created them)?

If you refuse to provide answers to my questions or attempt to
deflect them again I will raise a complaint with the OIC.

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

Yours faithfully,

John Slater



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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 'Universal Credit Programme'.

Thank you for your response to my IRR. I have to confess that this response has reached an all-time low for the DWP. I have given the DWP ample opportunity to comply with the FOIA or justify the exemptions claimed (as is required). I will address a couple of points in this repsponce:

The DWP stated:

“You asked for “the documentation from the relevant Minister that explains why
they believe the exemption applies”.

The Freedom of Information regime provides a right of access to recorded information not documents. The submission to the Minister contained arguments in favour of the disclosure of the information you sought. The arguments for withholding the information that were put before the Minister included the following:”

Are the DWP really claiming the FOIA does not cover the release of ‘documents’?

The following is an extract from an ICO publication:
“The Freedom of Information Act gives you a general right of access to all recorded information held by public authorities. Recorded information can be held in the form of documents, emails, notes, videos, letters and even audio tapes. It does not have to be about you, and you do not need to give a reason for wanting it.”

Clearly the information exists regarding what was put in front of the Minister and the documented decision taken by them in regard to claiming the Section 36 exemption. The ICO requires that such decisions are documented so it must exist as well. I wish to see all information related to this decision.

The DWP has failed to provide any evidence to rely on the Section 36 exemption. The issues listed are generic, unrealistic and exaggerated. The exemption requires any risk to be real and to not simply have a fanciful chance of occurring. The concerns raised can easily be resolving by redacting names / replacing them with departmental names and provide qualification that the data released is subject to change every 2 weeks. The fact that the release of the data may result in public debate regarding a large and expensive government programme that will impact some of the most vulnerable members of society appears to support one of the stated reasons for having the FOIA. In the white paper “Your Right to Know”, the government explained that the aim was a more open government based on mutual trust:

“Openness is fundamental to the political health of a modern state. This White Paper marks a watershed in the relationship between the government and people of the United Kingdom. At last there is a government ready to trust the people with a legal right to information.”

"Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in governance and defective decision-making."

Given the fear that the UC programme is generating within those members of the public that will be impacted, the misleading statements issued by Ministers (i.e. one month stating that the programme will release part of the system early, only to issue another statement the following month stating that it has now actually slipped) then I fail to see a downside to the release of the requested data and would argue that access to this data is part of the reason the Act was created.

I believe that this situation is comparable to Rt Hon John Healey MP and Mr Nicholas Cecil request for Risk Registers in relation to the white paper “Liberating the NHS: Legislative Framework” and subsequent document. The First-tied tribunal stated:

The Tribunal considered that disclosure “would have informed the public debate at a time of considerable public concern. It would have helped the public understand whether the government had understood the risks involved and what measures it was considering for dealing with them. Disclosure could have gone a long way to alleviating these concerns and reassuring the public that it was doable or it may have demonstrated the justification for the concerns so that public debate at a crucial time could have been better informed”. The subsequent Ministerial Veto employed to prevent publication was regarded as not fulfilling the exceptional circumstances required for such a veto and did not establish a legal precedence.

The ICO stated in its report to Parliament that there is absolutely no evidence to support the claims that the release of the kind of documents requested will cause harm. In fact there is clear evidence to the contrary that release of similar documents previously did not result in any harm whatsoever. I would argue, therefore, that the DWP has not reached their burden to apply the exemptions claimed.

The DWP also state that the impact of releasing the data will subject the “Programme to the risk of failure, due to spending time and resources on the debate around just the risks rather than delivering the Programme ...”. This is clearly the same argument that the University of Central Lancashire attempted in University of Central Lancashire v IC (EA/2009/0034). The tribunal considered that such an argument was fundamentally at odds with the philosophy of public access which underpinned FOIA and therefore the DWP will fail for the same reason.

The fact that the requested data is subject to regular review and update is irrelevant and does not give rise to exemption. The very nature of these documents is such that they will change significantly throughout the life of the programme. There are no statutory exemptions for how requested data will be understood or interpreted by the requestor or subsequent reader.

With regard to the other arguments put forward I can only assume that the DWP is generally relying on the prejudice test, as no specific exemption has been stated. It appears that as the DWP now run out of reasons for withholding the data they are now clinging on to this. The reasons cited are fanciful at best and suggest that they are born of fear that the release might actually shine a light on a programme that may be being badly run, wasting public money and may not be considering the impact on vulnerable members of society. Given the democratic right of the public to hold their government to account I do not believe that the DWP has come close to the threshold required to apply the exemptions claimed.

I will now raise a complaint with the ICO and ask them to investigate as I do not believe that the DWP has any intention of complying with the FOIA and will simply carry on using the same discredited excuses it has used previously.

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

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...

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Slater,

Please find attached the DWP's response to your request below.

Our sincere apologies for the delay in responding to you.

Kind regards
Central FoI Team

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Slater,

Please see the DWP's response to your request below.

Kind regards
Central FoI Team

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

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Slater,

Please see attached letter.

Kind regards,

DWP Central FoI Team

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S Smith left an annotation ()

Interestingly, in June 2013 the ICO overruled DWP and asked that they release the requested "PAR" review of Universal Credit from 2012.

Read the decision notice here: http://www.ico.org.uk/~/media/documents/...

It's a very detailed, thoughtful and thorough adjudication, and though 'finely balanced', it comes down on the side of the public interest.

Notably, it mentions that "The DWP provided the Commissioner
with some examples of very candid advice and recommendations
provided in the review document."

Given the National Audit Office's damning report into Universal Credit published last week (at least £34m wasted), it would be great if John could tell us whether or not DWP did appeal the ICO's decision, and whether he actually received a copy of the PAR review?

If DWP had published this candid review of UC when John first asked for it in early 2012 then many tens of millions of pounds might have been saved.

John Slater left an annotation ()

I had been meaning to provide an update on this request, so Sam’s prompt has been most helpful.

The matter has been appealed by both sides. I have appealed the Commissioner’s decision to withhold the Risk Register and the DWP has appealed his decision to disclose the Issues Register and High Level Schedule. Both parties have provided their grounds for appeal and the Commissioner has responded. We now have the opportunity to respond to the Commissioner’s submission and then I assume we wait for a tribunal date.

In light of the recent NAO report and IDS performance in the House of Commons I fully expect the DWP to appeal if the Tribunal finds against it and/or for me. I am of the view that the DWP will use any delaying tactic it can to avoid disclosing the 3 requested documents as I suspect they will make very uncomfortable reading for IDS.

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 'Universal Credit Programme'.

In light of the Information Tribunal (First Tier)judgement promulgated today refusing the DWP's appeal against disclosure of the UCP Risk Register, Issues Register and High Level Milestone schedule when can I expect the information I requested to be disclosed to me?

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

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...
 

show quoted sections

References

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

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear John Slater,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. Please find enclosed our reply.

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

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk

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John Slater left an annotation ()

For anyone following this request for information:

- Appeal took place in Jan 2014.
- The DWPs appeal was refused (for this FOI request and a different one for the Project Assessment Review Report).
- The DWP recently submitted an application to the First Tier Tribunal for permission to appeal the Tribunal's decision.
- The First Tier Tribunal Judge refused to grant the DWP application to appeal (quite rightly given the DWP grounds of appeal)

We now wait to see if the DWP will appeal directly to the Upper Tier Tribunal (I think the odds that it will appeal are very strong).

John Slater left an annotation ()

For anyone following this request for information:

The DWP did submit an application to the Upper Tribunal seeking permission to appeal the First Tier's decision.

It initially applied relying on paperwork alone. The Judge dismissed the DWP application and it was clear that he was not impressed with the DWP grounds of appeal.

The DWP then sought and was granted an oral hearing to put its case in front of a different Judge. This hearing is scheduled for the 3rd December in London.

John Slater left an annotation ()

Update:
The DWP managed to convince the Upper Tribunal ("UT") Judge that the First-Tier Tribunal ("FTT") made an error of law in its written judgement (i.e. a technicality). The UT sent the case back to the FTT and the case will be heard again in Feb 2016.

The DWP did disclose the UC Milestone schedule but sent it to me directly rather than posting it on this site.

The UT Judge did give a very strong hint that the DWP should disclose the remainder of the information given its age but as I write the DWP is insisting that another oral hearing take place.

John Slater left an annotation ()

The remitted First-Tier Tribunal hearing took place on Monday 22nd February 2016. I expect the decision to be published within the next 3 to 4 weeks.

John Slater left an annotation ()

The remitted hearing took place and the Tribunal decided against the DWP yet again. The DWP actually disclosed the information this time rather than appealing. I'm going to ask WDTK if there is a way to upload the information so it is available for everyone to see.

Doug Paulley left an annotation ()

We are grateful to the requester for making the following files, disclosed by the DWP in response to this request, available for all.

Issues Log http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
Milestone Plan http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
UC Programme Risk Part 1 http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
UC Programme Risk Part 2 http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
UC Programme Risk Part 3 http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
UC Programme Risk Part 4 http://files.whatdotheyknow.com/request/...
--
Doug - volunteer, WhatDoTheyKnow.com

John Slater left an annotation ()

Another request for information was dealt with by the Tribunal at the same time as this case (made by Tony Collins). Tony published an article about the document and the Project Assessment Review Report disclosed by the DWP at the URL below:
https://ukcampaign4change.com/2016/04/19...

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