11 February 2021
What: Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has repeatedly told MPs that her department does not have a legal duty to “safeguard” its claimants, and that such tasks are instead the responsibility of local agencies such as social services and doctors’ surgeries. But Disability News Service reveals that a secret report, probably completed in 2014, had recommended a review of DWP’s “ongoing Duty of Care in relation to the identification and support of claimants required to participate in the IBR [incapacity benefit reassessment] Process, who as a result of a [redacted] may be vulnerable and have different or additional support needs.” Asked if Coffey could explain the discrepancy and say whether the position over whether the department has a duty of care had changed since 2012-14, a DWP spokesperson refuses to comment. DWP later responds to a freedom of information request to say: ‘The Internal Process Review made a recommendation to review the Department’s responsibilities which on further consideration was not progressed as the Department does not have a legal safeguarding duty to review, therefore can confirm that DWP does not hold the recorded information to respond to your request.’
Why significant: Therese Coffey has repeatedly claimed that DWP has no statutory duty of claim, but in this document a DWP civil servant states clearly that it does.