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MSD CE Blocks Information Release

MSD CE Blocks Information Release

9 October 2006

The Ministry of Social Development is no longer prepared to supply data unless it forms part of one of its own self-generated reports. According to welfare commentator, Lindsay Mitchell, "Previously I have encountered no difficulty in obtaining quite detailed data from the Ministry. But two recent requests have met with a refusal to provide information."

Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive, Peter Hughes, says, "The information you have requested is not held by the Ministry.... Although the Ministry may collect the data you have requested it is considered 'raw data'." The raw data, "....is not captured by any current reports that are run by the Ministry....the Ministry regularly reports on benefit statistics via its website. The Ministry's view is that this reporting substantially meets the public interest in this matter."

Mitchell says, "This recent use of the Official Information Act's clause 18(g), that a Ministry need not generate new information, is a departure which raises a number of questions, the obvious being, why isn't the Ministry regularly generating reports about the nature and number of children on benefits? "

"In August I asked, 'How many children are attached to the benefits of 18 and 19 year-olds currently on the DPB? How many single parents with dependent children are currently on any form of benefit and how many children are attached to these benefits?' Peter Hughes has refused to answer these questions."

"Previously I have asked similar, if not more specific questions (see below) and answers have been provided. Clearly there has been a change in policy. Does this have anything to do with a change in Minister?"

"The most pressing concern I have, however, is the ability of the Ministry to censor information simply by not generating their own reports. They are defining what is and isn't in the public interest."

"When the Labour government came to power in 1999 the Prime Minister promised transparency and accountability. In this respect the Ministry of Social Development is not delivering."

ENDS

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