ESA investigation: Information Commissioner to certify Cabinet Office is in “contempt of court” over FOI failings?

An FOI request was made April 5th 2019, asking for information on the Nudge Unit (BEHAVIOURAL INSIGHTS LTD) and the Cabinet Office “role in changes made to the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) ESA65B letter which is sent to GPs and Doctors after and ESA claimant is found ‘fit for work’ and the ESA claim form and ESA Work Capability Assessment form”.

The Cabinet Office made three requests, on 9 June 2019, 4 July 2019, and 2 August 2019, for more time to consider the Public Interest before deciding on whether to release the information requested.

Due to these excessive delays a complaint was lodged with the Information Commissioner (ICO), who subsequently issued a Notice requiring the Cabinet Office to respond within 35 days or face High Court action for “contempt of court”. No such response has been provided and consequently a further ICO complaint was lodged today.

Decision (including any steps ordered)

3. The Commissioner requires the Cabinet Office to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.

• Having confirmed that information is held within the scope of the request:
either disclose the requested information or, issue a refusal notice in accordance with the requirements of section 17 of the FOIA.

4. The Cabinet Office must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the FOIA and may be dealt with as a contempt of court”
FS50863232 – Decision notice – 27 September 2019