The government is facing calls to publish two coroners’ reports that link the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the deaths of benefit claimants.
New information shows that the missing reports were written by coroners in 2015 and 2016, but neither of them have ever been published.
Both “prevention of future deaths” (PFD) reports warned DWP that more disabled people could die if the department failed to act.
But both DWP and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are refusing to release the reports, so it is unclear whether work and pensions ministers took any action to protect other benefit claimants.
Labour’s new shadow minister for disabled people, Vicky Foxcroft (pictured), called on the government to publish the two reports, and described its reluctance to do so as “worrying”.
The two PFD reports were written by coroners and sent to DWP, and they were also passed to the chief coroner for publication on the MoJ website.
Following a series of reports, freedom of information requests and ministerial answers to written parliamentary questions – including two from Foxcroft – Disability News Service (DNS) has now been able to confirm that one of the reports was written following an inquest that was held in 2015, while the other followed an inquest that took place in 2016.
One of the reports related to the death of a benefit claimant who took their own life, while the other cause of death has not been revealed.
The existence of the two unpublished reports was first revealed by DNS in March.
The chief coroner of England and Wales, Judge Mark Lucraft, who receives all PFD reports from coroners and publishes them on the official website of the judiciary, has so far been unable to explain why he has not published the two missing documents.
But guidance issued by his predecessor makes it clear that there is a “a presumption of publication” for such reports.
MoJ, in a response to a DNS freedom of information request, has resisted requests to search for the two missing reports, suggesting that it would be impossible to do so because PFDs “are filed under a limited number of categories but these do not include reference to the ‘DWP’”.
Only about 500 PFDs are written by coroners every year.
A written response this month to Foxcroft from Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, showed that the missing PFDs were written by coroners in 2015 and 2016.
He had earlier told her that DWP “considers the information confidential and it is the chief coroner’s decision whether to publish these reports”.
Foxcroft told DNS: “The government’s reluctance to release these reports is a worrying move that it should immediately reconsider.
“A key focus of prevention of future deaths reports is to understand past mistakes and ensure they do not happen again.
“The public has a right to know what changes have been made to avoid future deaths, and many will wonder what it is trying to hide.”
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