A Freedom of Information Tale

Your Government Lies

From Under A Cloud On Heartbreak Hill is a new free public access book on surviving Universal Credit by Gary Knapton. It is being redacted and edited for legal reasons. This blog drip-feeds book extracts and related material. 

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c.36) is an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that creates a public “right of access” to information held by public authorities. It is the implementation of freedom of information legislation in the United Kingdom on a national level.

I am taking the DWP to a tribunal hearing. It should take place this winter. Earlier in this blog I wrote about my Work Capability Assessment experience of summer 2018. 

https://heartbreakhill.home.blog/2019/01/06/work-capability-assessment/

This is not a call to get the violins out. This is not a story about me. Rather, I am using my personal situation to gather data in the manner of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. I am interested in how the government’s Department of Work & Pensions treats people when it believes it is acting under a veil of privacy. When it thinks nobody is looking and keeping a record of what is going on. 

I am interested in evidence of structural and infrastructural corruption and abuse of process. 

About one year ago I began to suspect that seriously ill people, signed off by specialist psychotherapists, GP’s and employer HR specialists as being very unfit for particular types of work that require elements of personal judgment and accuracy were being forced into taking jobs where poor standards could and actually did compromise public safety. 

It is my contention that the DWP, once in receipt of verification that an individual is ill in such a capacity – buries the relevant documentation and forces that individual back into the very same type of work. 

In my case and in my own personal experience, this work includes such things as placing road cones on motorways to form contra-flow traffic systems on the M6 and M1 in the UK. It includes working shifts with metal detectors on frozen meat products that enter the UK  from abroad to go on general sale in our supermarkets. Items such as frozen chickens and fish. 

It is my contention that, in such lines of work, when standards fail due to human error and catastrophe strikes, a cover-up is executed whereby the personnel within DWP that knowingly sent an unfit person to the front line, then feign innocence. Meanwhile people are dying and suffering injuries and are always at risk of such. 

How the DWP buries evidence of ill health

In February this year I used a section of law within the Freedom of Information Act (2000) to force the DWP to send me everything it holds on me.

Ten years ago Heather Rose Brooke – a British-American journalist – used the same piece of statute to force MP’s to declare their expenses. 

On Valentines Day I cycled to the Post Office collections centre with the ubiquitous red postcard. But instead of a large bunch of roses and a declaration of undying love from a secret admirer, I got something much better. And it made the old Yellow Pages look slender. 

I painstakingly worked through the mundanity of the DWP CRM and I colour indexed a few pages that I thought may be of interest before handing the whole bundle over to my lawyer. 

Months passed and then yesterday – the 20th August 2019 – I met up with Rose who had prepared my tribunal appeal script and wanted to brief me on what lay ahead. When I arrived at her office she was especially upbeat. In no time she pulled out a document within the FOI bundle that I had not seen. And it tells its own story. 

Above: the Freedom of Information Right of Request bundle from DWP dwarfs my desk and all other desktop inhabitants. It’s like Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina without the narrative hook. 

The process for legal tribunals is that I bring the case and the other side defends its position. Lawyers would argue that my terminology is incorrect but this is the best way to explain what goes on. Technically, I am not prosecuting I am an Applicant. Therefore, the other party is not defending, it is a Respondent. In this instance, the other side is The Secretary of State. Yesterday, my lawyer had received the Secretary of State’s Response to my tribunal application. It basically defends the DWP position that I am perfectly fit for work. And I mean perfectly. You have to score fifteen points or more to be considered as potentially unfit for some professional roles. I scored zero. 

So we’re going through the Respondent’s bundle and the thing is we are comparing it to the truth of what they actually know about me because, remember, I have the FOI warts and all “This Is Your Life” mega-pack on what the Secretary of State really knows.

One Glaring Omission

The Secretary of State appears to be obsessed with my physical health. The fact that I can tie my own shoe laces and put my hands above my head. Make my own bed. Cook my own food. This office defends its decision to score me zero points for all the mental health categories and declares that in interacting with other people in the workplace there is nothing out of the ordinary.

Buried by DWP and only picked up by my lawyer as she scoured the Freedom of Information data is the following document: (scroll down to see an image of the original).

It is only three pages long. It is a communication between the DWP Centre for Health and Disability Assessments and my GP. I had never heard of it before. I was unaware not just of its content but of its existence. 

It is stamp dated 10th September 2018 – precisely when DWP was giving me a clean bill of health to set up the motorway cones for your midnight drive home up the M6 and check the metallic content of your dinner. Mysteriously, it does not appear in the information that DWP has sent to the court to respond to my application for a tribunal hearing. 

It has been buried. 

In it, the government asks my GP if I am fit to work and she replies No with a rather detailed answer in handwriting. Take me out of the picture and just see an individual you never heard of. Would you want this person carrying out public safety tasks that you and your family depend on?

Imagine a fatality and here is a professional risk assessment of the employee who put nuts in your food or caused a multi-car pile up involving your daughter or your mum. Compiled long before the tragedy. Received and buried by the same government department that forced that person back into the same job. 

In her own handwriting, when asked about conditions affecting this person’s ability to work, my GP has scribbled the following:

Low mood. Anxiety. Poor sleep. Multiple stressors including family issues, financial issues – long standing. 

Had psychological therapy July 17 – ended after completing 16 sessions of cognitive analytical therapy. Discharged in October 17 but very quickly referred back by GP. On waiting list since November 17 for the high intensity team was expecting to be called June 18 but still on waiting list to my knowledge. 

Not on any antidepressant or anti-anxiety meds. We have tried to avoid sleepers. Has tried benzodiazepines sourced from friends but dissuaded from doing this. 

States also been a victim of hate crime. 

Intensive psychotherapy would preclude job seeking I feel.

Don’t take my word for it. Read the letter below. I am not paraphrasing. And yet the point is not the content, the point is the subterfuge. Why is DWP failing to disclose crucial evidence it has collected from registered health professionals? Why is DWP abusing the legal due diligence process?

How would you feel about the employer of the errant worker, knowing that they knew the above about that individual and still sent them back into a job that in the end caused an accident that had a bearing on you or your loved ones ?

This is your government. 

HeartbreakHill is a project like any other. It takes two steps forward and one step back. Happily, it is moving ahead with pace once more and I am aiming for a general free public release of my book before Christmas. I’ll keep you posted. 
The book is written. We are engaged in thorough editing and redacting for legal reasons. 

Above: The hidden document. The one that got buried. The one they are keeping, even from the tribunal court. 

Above. Secretary of State’s Response to my tribunal application and case as I have laid it out. This is the top sheet.

I will be settled

The thing is, my case is likely never to reach the tribunal floor. If it does, I will win. But more likely, DWP will award me an “unfit for work” status in the interim, thereby killing the case off. And so in a sense, the systemic corruption gets a clean pass and I am silenced. The far-reaching implications of the point I am making and the abuses I am exposing get shunted back into the darkness.

What I could really use is a legal team with a class-action angle and a leftfield courageous team of investigative journalists to do a body count of people in my position and then hit the litigation mechanism with a stack of departmental abuses, a truck load of proven cover-ups and a handful of deaths and injuries that satisfy the causal link criteria in UK law.

This story is to be continued. Thanks for reading and stay tuned.

gK 21:08:19

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