MPs win fight with DWP to make disability benefits research public

“We’ve reached the end of the road,” Timms said.

“We would have preferred that the DWP had done the right thing and published the report itself, so it is with regret that we now have to take the very unusual step of using our parliamentary powers to obtain a copy of NatCen and publish it ourselves.

“We were forced to do this to ensure that the reality of the experiences of people with disabilities of the benefit system could see the light of day.”

NatCen researchers interviewed 120 people with disabilities about navigating Universal Credit, Employment Allowance and Personal Independence Support and Payment systems as part of the project.

Hearing oral evidence from Coffey last month, the committee – chaired by Labor but made up of a Conservative majority – pointed out that the 120 people had received letters saying the research would be published when completed.

The minister said: “I don’t know who in the ministry approved this letter. It was not me.

She then declined to say whether the research had been used in the development of the Disability Green Paper, published in July 2021, which experts said showed too little ambition to improve the experiences of people with disabilities in the system. of benefits.

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The Works and Pensions Committee last wrote to Coffey asking him to reconsider on Dec. 15, outlining his plans to get the final report themselves if the DWP does not make it public.

Coffey responded on January 10. She wrote: ‘As I have previously written to the committee and reaffirmed at the committee hearing last month, my department is currently considering a range of policy options, drawing on extensive evidence, research and analysis. , and it is important to protect a private space for policy-making.

“I do not intend to publish this research at this time.”

The committee has now ordered NatCen to provide a copy of the report by January 27.

Boris Johnson said the government would publish the research “as soon as [they] can” during this week’s fiery PMQs.

Ella Abraham, Head of Policy and Campaigns for Z2K and Co-Chair of Disability Benefits Consortium Campaigns, told The Big Issue: “120 people with disabilities participated in this research and were assured that the report outlining the findings would be published.

“Yet the DWP’s shameful decision to refuse to publish this report is another example of why people with disabilities have little faith in the DWP. We are happy to see that the Select Committee on Work and Pensions is using parliamentary powers to publish it.

Ministers have already been taken to court over the treatment of disabled people who depend on so-called inherited benefits, after refusing to grant them the £20 Universal Credit boost during the pandemic.

The news comes as the Parliamentary Health Services Ombudsman accuses the DWP of inflicting ‘irreparable injustice’ on disabled claimants after administrative errors meant 118,000 people did not receive the payments to which they were entitled. Most claimants received arrears but were unable to claim compensation despite missing out on related benefits such as reductions on energy bills.

“Disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are facing a Tory cost of living crisis with rising heating bills, rising prices and cuts in support,” said Jonathan Ashworth , Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary.

“But the truth is that thousands continue to suffer as a result of a decade-old government failure that left many without money for basic food and living expenses.

“It is outrageous that the government’s incompetence has left thousands of people with disabilities without the support that is rightfully theirs. This is a damning verdict from the Québec Ombudsman and Thérèse Coffey must go to the Commons immediately to explain how she intends to right this wrong for 118,000 disabled people.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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