10 November 2014
What: DWP responds to a freedom of information (FOI) request from Disability News Service which asked how many letters or other communications it had received from coroners in each of the last 10 years, expressing concern that a death may have been linked to or related to the non-payment or withdrawal of a benefit. It responds: “We do not hold central records of such requests from Coroners,” saying that to meet the request would exceed the cost of £600 set for answering FOIs, and that letters “are internal documents, produced for internal purposes and not generally released to third parties” because they contain personal information (protected under Section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992).
Why significant: At this point, the PFD reports written to DWP following the deaths of Stephen Carré and Michael O’Sullivan had not emerged publicly. It later emerges that DWP did not set up a single, clear route for coroners to contact the department – the so-called coroner’s focal point – until 2016. DWP should have been aware that PFD reports sent by coroners to the department were available publicly on the judiciary’s website.