25 March 2019
What: Following intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, DWP admits that two PFD letters written by coroners, and a series of peer reviews into the deaths of claimants, were hidden from the team set up to review the WCA, under Dr Paul Litchfield. ICO gives Disability News Service a summary of its discussions with DWP, which prove that neither the peer reviews nor the coroners’ letters were sent to Litchfield. DWP later says: “DWP co-operated fully with the Litchfield reviews, and shared all relevant information which was requested by Dr Litchfield and his team. DWP was not asked by Dr Litchfield or his review for information on the specific cases you refer to. The issues investigated and evidence sought is at the discretion of the independent reviewer, and according to the terms of reference of their review.” But she was unable to explain how Litchfield’s team could have requested information – the secret peer reviews and coroners’ letters – if they did not know they existed.
Why significant: Strongly suggests that evidence linking DWP policies to claimant deaths was intentionally withheld from the WCA review team. Evidence from the previous WCA reviewer, Professor Malcolm Harrington, had already suggested that similar evidence had been withheld from his team.