Rowley blasts DWP’s ongoing Universal Credit FoI Deflection

Wednesday January 9th 2019

Danielle Rowley in the House of Commons

Midlothian MP, Danielle Rowley, raises her point of order in the House of Commons

A point of order has been raised in the Commons over the Department for Work and Pensions’ continued failure to release the “deflection scripts” issued to Universal Credit helpline operators to hurry callers off the phone.

Scottish Labour MP for Midlothian Danielle Rowley used an FoI request to ask for the scripts mentioned by a whistleblower call handler in a Sky News report in October. But the DWP response denied any such scripts existed, while admitting there are “certain agent-led processes” and “supportive lines available”.

Despite lodging an appeal against the response on November 26, and with FoI rules stating that the target date for a response is normally within 20 working days, no further clarification of those “agent-led processes” and “supportive lines” has been forthcoming.

Ms Rowley said: “I don’t think the Department should be able to use semantics to wriggle out of providing the documents. If there are ‘supportive lines’ then that is what most people would call a script. I requested a review of the response, and I asked if I could be provided with these materials.

“Even accounting for the Christmas period, the 20 working days deadline has been and gone with no further reply. Once again, the response from the DWP to questions about deflection tactics used against sometimes vulnerable claimants has been more deflection.

“If, as an elected member, this is the sort of difficulty I can have getting a straightforward answer to a simple inquiry, it is all too easy to imagine the sort of problems callers to the Universal Credit helpline might be having. The UC rollout has been an unmitigated disaster – the least the DWP owes those affected is to answer their legitimate questions courteously. If they cannot be candid about this, just what are they hiding?”

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