Tag Archives: DWP

‘Mandatory’ instruction removed from DWP Workfare document?

UPDATE (29 Feb 2012): Channel 4’s FactCheck have followed this up with a response from the DWP:

“A spokesman told FactCheck: “The changes to the website were just part of a regular update. We regularly revise documents for clarity purposes.”

“When pushed on whether that meant that the instruction to mandate participants is no longer government policy, she wasn’t able to provide any more “clarity” other than to say: “I’m not saying the advice is wrong.”

“That’s a bit of a problem, because if the advice ISN’T wrong, but HAS been taken down, doesn’t that mean that Work Programme providers are now in danger of breaking the rules on the National Minimum Wage Regulations, as the government took great pains to flag up originally in the missing paragraph?

“Confusion reigns, and despite repeated phone calls and several days to think about it, DWP has declined to clarify the situation.

“The spokesman did tell us that the apparently damning FoI answer had been taken down because it contained an error (“one of the names of the companies was wrong”).

“And the timing of all this was pure coincidence, the spokesman insisted.

“So a document emphasising the “mandatory” nature of Work Programme work experience happened to disappear from the department’s website just as the controversy over whether other schemes were mandatory was raging in the headlines.

“Or in any event, that’s DWP’s story and they’re sticking to it.”

Original post below

cached copy of DWP document: you must mandate participants

Anton, a commenter on The Void blog, has pointed out that government documents on the work experience programme have been altered recently to remove the instruction “you must mandate participants to this activity”.

A Google cache of the documents still contains the phrase (on page 4), whereas the version currently on the DWP site (PDF) does not. (Just in case that cache disappears, here’s a copy)

It’s a bit late in the evening to get a response from the DWP on this, but if anyone wants to ring on Monday morning, let us know.

Also on Brighter Future.

UPDATE: Mary Hamilton looks into the documents’ metadata and tells us the original version was “created/modified 17/08/2011. Changed version created/modified 24/02/2012.”

Cuts to disability benefits: how is your local authority coping?

As part of its austerity measures, the British government is making cuts on several welfare benefits. One of the affected groups is Britain’s 10 million disable people (figures provided by the Disabled Living Foundation).

How serious is the situation in your local area?

The independent think tank Demos, has mapped out their research data in the area, which allows us to check how well (or badly) each local authority in England and Wales is coping with the budget cuts to disability services. They were ranked as very good, good, well, ok, poor, bad or very bad.

The methodology Demos used to analyse the data and produce a nationwide picture is explained here.

Testimonials compiled on the False Economy site by people affected by the government cuts try to give voice to the current crisis, but more needs to be done.

The Where’s the Benefit campaign put out a call for disabled people in the UK to join their local “Occupy” groups  for a couple of hours every Sunday afternoon and raise awareness on how the welfare reform bill and its proposed cuts are affecting them. WtB also compiled, in a podcast, stories about  the role the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) plays in a disabled person’s life (#myDLA hashtag on Twitter).

In our previous post, Paul Bradshaw wrote about the Department of Work and Pensions’ press release claiming disability benefits were paid “without checks”. The press release triggered several media articles, but published DWP figures were interpreted widely differently on The Daily Mail and The Telegraph. The discrepancy was unpicked on the Left Foot Forward blog.

Have you or a loved one, been affected by cuts to disability benefits? Does the Demos map inspire you to collaborate with an investigation in this area? Would you like to ask Help Me Investigate Welfare to investigate any specific issues/facts/figures? Do you know someone who is already doing that and would like to introduce us to them? Are you good with video cameras and would like to get some live interviews with disabled people joining Occupy on Sundays?

You do not need to be a journalist or researcher in order to help; we will give you guidance and tips. Leave a comment, get in touch.

Links: Disability benefits paid “without checks”? The statistics debunked

Ruth Barnett writes about the Department for Work and Pensions press release with a particularly nastily-spun statistic (bold in original):

“The vast majority (94%) of new claimants got the benefit without having any face-to-face assessment of their needs.”

Ruth writes:

“The rest of the release paints a more complex (or to be less diplomatic, potentially contradictory) picture.


“It seems 42% of claimants had a statement from their GP verifying their medical condition; a further 36% submitted other sources of evidence, a category that can include reports by social workers or occupational therapists.


“Surely a GP is a “healthcare professional”? And surely all these trained staff will have met the claimant in person? Does this not count as a form of assessment? Apparently not.


The DWP’s figures show 16% submitted a claim form alone.”

Ruth got a response from the DWP, who do not feel their statements were misleading. Those statements include a quote from Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith that “At the moment hundreds of millions of pounds are paid out in disability benefits to people who have simply filled out a form.”

She points out:

“The DWP figures show the cost of new claimants who really did just fill in the form last year was […] £30m.”

Also debunked and unpicked on Left Foot Forward.

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.