DWP accused of blocking claimant suicide research

Wed,2 March 2022
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The DWP has faced repeated criticisms that it is blocking or burying politically unpalatable research by the University of Glasgow.

A study examining whether benefit sanctions are linked to mental illness and suicide, increasing costs to the NHS, has been stopped and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of a “culture of secrecy” for insisting that researchers resubmit approval for the release of the data four years since Ministers first agreed to share it.

Last month, MPs had to force the publication of a DWP-commissioned report showing how people on low incomes who need to rely on disability benefits struggled to meet basic living costs, reports The Guardian.

Ministers have refused to publish the DWP’s own internal evaluation of the effectiveness of sanctions which was promised to MPs in 2019, and research commissioned in 2018 assessing the impact of benefit policies on food bank use has also yet to be published.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We agreed in principle to release the sanctions data to researchers but this required formal accreditation of the security of the facilities to be used to store the data, as well as legal approval. The UK Statistics Authority granted this accreditation in late 2021 and we are now actively considering the data request.”

Benefit sanctions were suspended during the first lockdown in 2020. But the latest data shows that 50,000 people were sanctioned in November – up from 18,000 in July, according to research from the University of Glasgow.

Read more: Report on effectiveness of benefit sanctions blocked by DWP