25 March 2014

A new and clever excuse for DWP not providing information?

This story starts with an FOI request by one James Wild concerning "Compulsory Volunteering" asking a fairly technical question about the possibility that JCP advisers were mandating customers to take up "voluntary" work. Now, one of the problems with trying to get information this way is that if DWP can claim that it would be too much work, they can decline to answer. The Act says the limit is £600 which is equated to about 3.5 person-days work.

James had anticipated this problem and cunningly included the following in his request:
Ideally, I would like these figures for everywhere where any form of the Claimant Commitment is in use. If that would exceed the monetary limit, please restrict your search to half the relevant job centres and if necessary, a quarter, etc.
This approach of limiting the scope of a request often succeeds but on this occasion DWP still claimed it was too much work so James asked for a "review" commenting:
I doubt you applied this procedure and concluded that statistics for even one job centre would cost more than £600.
 In reply, DWP still refused and deployed an interesting further excuse
b) any statistics that DWP provide have to be verified against a set of strict quantitative parameters which as you will appreciate would not be cost effective in this case

2) DWP did apply the correct procedures in determining that the cost would exceed the £600 limit and this is true even on an office by office basis.
The part I've made bold is particularly interesting. As I've discussed before, DWP has attracted some criticism from the UK Statistics Authority,This may be behind their new-found enthusiasm for being seen to get their statistics right.

I may be cynical but it's also a very handy way of not publishing statistics that could be embarrassing.

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