A MINISTER in the UK Government has been accused of deliberately attempting to hide the impact of wide-ranging welfare reforms by concealing a range of official reports on benefits. 

Work and pension secretary Thérèse Coffey said she would not publish five reports on the benefit cap, deaths of benefits claimants, the impact of universal credit (UC) and benefit sanctions. 

She also said she had no plans to publish two further reports about unpaid carers and work capability assessments. 

Her predecessors as secretary of state had promised to publish several of the reports. 

Policy adviser at Disability Rights UK Ken Butler said: “We’re not talking about just one report and one subject.

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“We’re talking about a whole swathe of reports about important aspects of the system. 

“The DWP are operating behind a wall of secrecy.”

Coffey laid out her refusal to publish the information in a letter to the select committee. 

The reports include an evaluation of the reduction in the benefit cap, which has stayed at the same rate since 2016 and ranges from £13,400 for those outside London to £23,000 for those in the city. 

Estimates suggest 1.3 million children in the cap have parents who struggle to buy basics such as food and nappies. 

The second report examined how accessible the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) websites and apps are. 

These are used to claim benefits with accessibility a major issue for those living with disabilities. 

A third report looked into the deaths of benefit claimants. The DWP has started 140 internal process reviews since July 2019 into claimants whose deaths may be linked to benefits. 

In 2018, Errol Graham died of starvation after his benefits were cut off. 

Another report examined the effectiveness of support for vulnerable claimants of universal credit (UC). 

Charities have shown concern that people moving on to UC from other forms of benefit such as disability benefits may lose out. 

There was also a DWP report evaluating the impact of benefit sanctions in persuading people into work.

Academic research suggests that sanctions only make people ill and it has been described as a “war on families”. 

Coffey said the DWP had not yet decided if it would publish “Experiences of claiming and receiving Carer’s Allowance”, which examines how and why unpaid carers face extra hurdles in getting jobs. 

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She added that she was “not committing” to publishing statistics on work capability assessment for UC, which are used to establish if ill or disabled people can work. 

Statistics on previous benefits such as personal independence payments show about 327,000 people are missing out on payments due to delays of up to five months. 

Butler continued: “We’re being told this isn’t a priority at the moment and basically being dismissed. 

“When you’re moving two million disabled people on to a new benefit all these issues are really relevant. 

“Even the DWP has acknowledged that disabled people have a lack of trust in the DWP. Although they say they want to improve trust and improve transparency, they are actually not publishing information that’s open to scrutiny and that is deeply concerning.”

In January, the select committee took the step of writing to NatCen Social Research, the UK’s largest independent social researcher, using parliamentary powers to order it to provide a copy of a report commissioned by the DWP into disability benefits. 

Chair of the Commons work and pensions committee Stephen Timms MP said the report “gave rise to some potentially awkward questions for ministers to have to answer, although, frankly, if you read the report, they were pretty mild”.

He continued: “But it was inconvenient. So they decided they were going to avoid scrutiny and not publish it. 

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“But since then, we’ve become aware of a whole range of other reports, which either had previously been promised to be published, or clearly ought to be published.”

The DWP did not offer comment, although referred to a passage in Coffey’s letter to the committee where she states: “We have been clear that where requests relate to research that is informing ongoing policy development, the department reserves the right to withhold it. 

“It is important that ministers consider research and its publication on a case-by-case basis. 

“I do understand the close interests of the committee in research that informs policy, but it is not the case that we committed to publish all research commissioned by a secretary of state, including research commissioned by my predecessors.”