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:
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.