Publication - FOI/EIR release

Correspondence of devolved benefits and cold weather payments: FOI release

Published: 28 Jun 2019

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Published:
28 Jun 2019
Correspondence of devolved benefits and cold weather payments: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/19/00750
Date received: 1 Apr 2019
Date responded: 24 Jun 2019
Information requested

You asked for :-

Any correspondence in the past 12 months detailing discussions on case transfers for devolved benefits between the DWP and the Scottish Government, the Social Security Directorate and the Housing and Social Justice Directorate”. 

Any correspondence between the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People concerning Cold Weather Payments and Winter Heating Assistance.

Response

Part 1 -

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.  While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested on “any correspondence detailing discussions on case transfers for devolved benefits between the DWP and the Scottish Government, the Social Security Directorate and the Housing and Social Justice Directorate” because an exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation), of FOISA applies to that information.  The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in Annex I to this letter.  

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, eg names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.  This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

In addition, under section 3(2)(a)(ii) of FOISA, some of this information is not held by the Scottish Government.  You can however contact the Department of Work and Pensions directly to make a request under the UK FOI Act at https://www.gov.uk/make-a-freedom-of-information-request.

Part 2 –

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested.  While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested on “correspondence between the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, and the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People concerning Cold Weather Payments and Winter Heating Assistance” because an exemption under section s.29(1)(a) (policy formulation), of FOISA applies to that information.  The reasons why that exemption applies are explained in Annex II to this letter.

An exemption under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA (personal information) applies to a small amount of the information requested because it is personal data of a third party, eg names/contact details of individuals, and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018.  This exemption is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

Reasons for not providing information - Annex I
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy on case transfer.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’.  Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.  We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption.  We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.  However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions.  This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.  Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on how case transfer will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.  

Reasons for not providing information - Annex II
An exemption applies, subject to the public interest test

An exemption under section 29(1)(a) of FOISA (formulation or development of government policy) applies the information requested because it relates to the development of the Scottish Government’s policy on both Cold Weather Payments and Winter Heating Assistance.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’.  Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.  We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption.  We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.  However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions.  This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications.  Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on Cold Weather Payments and Winter Heating Assistance will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government’s view on that policy while it is still under discussion and development.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG