Information Commissioner rules on the cover-up of DWP-related deaths

Mike here reports on the Information Commissioner’s response to his complaint about his FOI request being turned down. Mike had asked for information on the number of people, who have died as a result of ATOS declaring them fit for work. The DWP refused, on the grounds that it was ‘vexatious’. The Information Commissioner has concurred with their decision. They consider that it was indeed vexatious, as Mike had urged others also to write in, making the same request. This has serious implications for anyone wishing to hold the government to account for any of their policies. The request for information on this issue was first turned down, as only one person made the request, and so it was judged to be not worth the civil servants’ time and effort to find the relevant information. Now they’ve refused on the spurious grounds that it’s ‘vexatious’, and is the request is framed by people ‘acting in concert’. The attitude is that of a petulant, bullying child, who knows the other person is in the right and it is they, who is acting badly. Nevertheless, they carry on, sticking their tongue out at the others, singing, ‘You can’t make me!’ This has serious implications for everyone wishing to question the government on their failed and bloody policies. Mike cites the case of Jacqueline Harris, a Bristol woman, who committed suicide after a two-minute interview by ATOS, as one of those, who has died as result of the government’s policies. I’ve blogged about her case. One of my commenters was so impressed by what I said, that he suggested that we launch a mass campaign to write to the government demanding answers to some of the questions I raised. I’m really touched that people out there thought I had said something worthwhile about Mrs Harris, something that could stop other needless deaths by a cruel and humiliating system. Now it seems there’s no point in writing at all, as the government will simply curl its lips and dismiss any request for information with a lofty sneer. Mike does, however, give a very good critique of the spurious quality and vacuity of the information Commissioners’ answers, and provides a few suggestions on how these can be overcome. Take heart, peep: this is just a setback. The war’s still going on. And like the Federation in the film Starship Trooopers – but without their violence and Fascism – we’ll win!

Mike Sivier's blog

Long-term readers will know that the author of this blog has spent the last few months trying to get officials at the Department for Work and Pensions to release mortality statistics for people undergoing the assessment procedure for Employment and Support Allowance.

It is in the public interest for the nation to know how many seriously ill or disabled people are dying while they wait to undergo the controversial Atos-run medical assessment, while they await the result, and while they appeal against a result that puts them in the wrong group or claims they are fit for work.

These deaths may be due to deterioration in their health – whether or not it was caused by the process – or suicide prompted by the process or the decision.

An initial Freedom of Information request was rejected by the DWP on the grounds that it was “vexatious”. I disputed that claim, and…

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