Tag Archives: FOI

How to find new leads in an old news report on empty property

empty property in Croydon - image by United Diversity
empty property in Croydon – image by United Diversity

Background material and general reporting on an area can often provide all sorts of clues and leads for further, deeper investigation.

This piece from the Birmingham Mail is a particularly good example. On the surface it is a rather general report on an empty property in the city – but along the way it includes all sorts of helpful pointers if you want to dig further. Continue reading How to find new leads in an old news report on empty property

Now DWP FOI response on “mandatory” placements disappearing too? – link

screengrab of Google search for document

Following Friday’s post about work experience guidance being altered, The Void blog reports on more curiosities from the Google cache: this time, an FOI response from December which listed private companies taking part in the work experience scheme:

“The document could previously be found at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/foi-3238-2011.pdf. Unfortunately it’s no longer there.  But that’s okay because good old google cache has a copy of this as well.

The FOI response – which can also be found here – describes the programme as “providing mandatory work placements”.

An older FOI response which lists the names of voluntary organisations taking jobseekers on work experience is still up.

Again, if anyone wants to get a response from the DWP, let me know in the comments.

Flexible Support Fund: how new is the new Travel for Interview Scheme?

In my last post, I uploaded the response to the DWP to my FOI request about TIS funding.

The letter also confirms that the Travel to Interview Scheme was officially terminated on 4th April 2011 – to be replaced by what is now called the Flexible Support Fund (FSF).

The Citizens Advice Bureau site also explains what new Flexible Support Fund is. (For an enlarged version, click on the image.)

A response to an FOI request requesting clarity about the rules governing the decision making for eligibility to FSF, dated June/July 2011, is available on WhatDoTheyKnow.com, and makes interesting reading.

What we now know is that, although it is up to the JobCentre Plus advisers whether to use the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) to subsidise a jobseeker’s travel to an interview, it is the District Manager who determines how the Flexible Support Fund is spent locally. Guidance notes for JobCentre advisers are also provided for reference.

Flexible Support Fund – the decision making process (FOI)

Flexible Support Fund Adviser Guidance

Are these FSF rules any different from the old Travel for Interview Scheme (TIS)? Or is the FSF just a renaming of TIS, only with less money in the pot?

Any takers to investigate?

TIS investigation kick-off: an FOI request to the DWP

To kick of the investigation about funds allocated to the Travel for Interview (TIS) scheme, I searched the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) website for any publicly available information.

Some government departments, such as the Department of Health, offer helpful guidance on how to contact them for enquiries, including a customer service telephone number, but searching for information on the Department of Work and Pensions site can be more like a needle-in-a-haystack case.

My search finally led me to the What We Spend page, which published data, in CSV format, on DWP’s payments over £25,000. The data is broken down by month, starting from April 2010, the first month of the 2010/2011 tax year. A PDF of explanatory notes on the monthly payment spreadsheets is also available.

I downloaded some of the spreadsheets to check their content, filtered the data to show only “TIS” (travel for interview) under Expense Type and was delighted to discover that, this way, I could easily obtain the total monthly sums JobCentres spent on TIS.  But I also realised that data alone would not help me draw many useful conclusions as to which parts of the country had the highest number of jobseekers dependent on the scheme to travel to interviews.

Did a breakdown by region exist of TIS funds allocated to JobCentres round the country? In order to create those spreadsheets on their website, the DWP must have originally had more location-specific figures from JobCentres, which had then been collated into the monthly reports.

I used the email address published at the bottom of the list of spreadsheets to ask them the question. The information turned out to be available only under a Freedom of Information request, so I sent it out as one.

Below is the response to my FOI request from the DWP’s communications team:

DWP’s response to FOI re Regional Breakdown of spend on Travel to Interview Scheme 2010/2011

I will now be working on analysing the regional breakdown of TIS funds provided by the DWP, while I research what data maps are available on poverty/deprivation or unemployment rates in the UK. My idea is that we can link those with the TIS figures we now have. Results will be published in a future post, so watch this space.

You are welcome to join the investigation at any stage and contribute in any way you like. Perhaps you are interested in data and knows how to use data visualisation tools? Maybe you’re good with spreadsheets and would like to help clean data. Or you are a skilled web detective and would like to suggest links that could speed up our research?

Please Help Me Investigate. Get in touch.

UPDATE ON OCT. 12, 2011:  I have moved the information on the new Flexible Support Fund (FSF) to a separate post, so that we can investigate it in more detail.