In June 2014, Frank Zola via the Information Commissioners Office, appealed to the General Regulatory Chamber Tribunal to force DWP to release details of the Workfare
exploiters successful bidders.
DWP had originally turned down the request, on the grounds that the information was commercially sensitive.
The judge however had other ideas and refused their request, advising them that they could appeal (if they wished) directly to the Court of Appeal. (see judges comments below)
Full decision here
ICO and the DWP met for 5 hours at an Upper Tribunal Information Rights case, about naming Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) and Work Programme placement hosts, summary of arguments put forward:
DWP: Andrew Sharland
the original first tier tribunal decision and particularly the conclusions contained many errors in law and the first tier tribunal decision should be set-side and a new one convened.
reference was made to the Salvation Army “holding the line” and the YMCA “sticking with” MWA and the ‘small’ charities PDSA and Sue Ryder not having Tesco like PR resources to ‘wage war’ against, the media and “aggressive targetting” by protesters.
that Boycott Workfare’s “strident” criticism, online petitions and direction action against hosts was not ‘standard criticism’.
there was continual reference to a complaint that workfare hosts had been presented “thieving fucking criminals” and “people are dying because of you”.
DWP conceded that Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is not” a commercial-interest
ICO: Robin Hopkins
The DWP arguments are a “classic case” of focusing on certain words and seeking to get a ‘drop of blood out of a stone’, using sophistry and being incapable of ‘seeing the woods for the trees” and are using the hearing to “snipe” at the tribunal’s decision.
the first tier tribunal are entitled to reach the conclusion they did and it would not be fair to remit the case back to a fresh first tier tribunal due to possible ‘isolated errors in law’
the DWP present workfare as being for “community benefit” it therefore follows that it is in the public interest for communities to know that names of workfare placement hosts in their community.
there is no actual evidence to show a causal link that disclosure of “free labour” hosts names did or could lead to any loss of commercial interests
Boycott Workfare’s activities are part of a democratic right of protest
there was no evidence of a “media frenzy” against workfare hosts and complaints against The Guardian reporting are “hopeless”
the media, blog and website evidence only submitted by the DWP contradicts it’s own case, noting the Daily Mail IDS article cited was self-serving defense of DWP’s workfare.
these workfare schemes are “controversial” and the DWP should expect criticism
the first tier tribunal was right to give little weight to the survey and letters ‘evidence’ provided by workfare hosts and “middle men” (DWP contractors and subcontractors) at the DWP’s behest as this enabled the DWP to frame the gathering of such evidence to prove it’s own case and as such should be treated with ‘suspicion’ due to it’s “partiality”
the exposure of Sue Ryder, PDSA and Salvation Army as workfare hosts took place in 2011 prior to the FOI requests
Oxfam considers workfare to be unethical
The DWP also sought to “smuggle in” (ICO comment) new reasons it considered against the original decision, ICO argued they did not have permission for new grounds, particularly those concerning aggregation of multiple requests within a single FOI request.
During the hearing the Judge made the following observations:
Social Media allows members of the public on unpaid workfare to disclose the names of workfare placement hosts and they are under no duty of confidentiality. That much of the media attention had been caused by Tesco ‘shooting itself in the foot’ over recruitment adverts for unpaid workfare in it’s supermarkets. There was also some confusion over the pagination/numbering of DWP’s bundle concerning media, blog and website evidence submitted by the DWP
DWP has now submitted it’s appeal notice to the Court of Appeal (24/10/14), the DWP grounds of appeal are that the First Tier Tribunal erred in law by concluding the DWP disclosure of the requested information would not prejudice it’s commercial interests [43(2) FOIA] or otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs [36(2)(c) FOIA].
So, at great cost to the taxpayer (and remember we are ALL taxpayers, because aside from anything else, we all pay VAT), DWP continue to flog a dead horse.