In early September, the CIPR agreed to suspend its investigation following confirmation that the DWP was conducting its own investigation.
In a statement published on Friday, the CIPR said it had now been confirmed by the DWP that no members of the institute were involved in or responsible for the leaflet. The CIPR’s investigation has therefore been closed.
The CIPR said it had been told by the Government Communications Service that government comms professionals “continue to be advised of expected standards of best practice in line with the Civil Service Code”.
Sarah Pinch, president of the CIPR, said: “Honest regard for the public interest; delivering reliable and accurate information; and a commitment to never knowingly mislead are vital components of proper professional practice – and I am pleased that in this case, the DWP and GCS have confirmed that no members of the institute were involved.
“This is an opportunity to remind members of the CIPR that they are publicly accountable for the standard of their professional conduct, and the conduct of those under their management. This accountability is a valuable asset not just to members themselves, but also to the public, to clients and to those who employ them.”
The DWP was not immediately able to confirm the progress of its internal investigation.
Ipswich Unemployed Action comments:
If members of the CIPR were not involved, who were?
They must have worked for the DWP, in some fashion, to produce the material.
Were they DWP employees or some kind of outsourced company?
Who were they responsible to – the person/people with the ultimate authority in this affair?
We know one thing the DWP have not done.
To put it simply: they have not responded in any effective way when found out fabricating stories.
That is to sanction those in a position of ultimate responsibility for making up ‘facts’.
Nobody has – yet – been held accountable.
We therefore have no guarantee that these practices will not be repeated.
On Wednesday 19 August, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) launched an investigation into the actions of communications professionals at the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). This followed the publication of a response to a Freedom of Information request which revealed that the DWP had published leaflets about benefits sanctions that included comments attributed to named individuals who did not exist.
The Institute sought to investigate this case of ‘astroturfing’ – falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support – as such practices contravene the CIPR’s Code of Conduct by:
- not maintaining an expected standard of professional integrity and personal conduct
- failing to deal honestly and fairly in business with the public
- bringing the public relations profession into disrepute.
After agreeing to suspend its own investigation following confirmation that an internal investigation would be led by the DWP, it has now been confirmed to the CIPR that no members of the Institute were directly involved – or responsible for overseeing the delivery of this work. As a result, the Institute has formally closed any processes to take a complaint forward.
In addition, the Government Communications Service (GCS) has also informed the Institute that communications professionals across central government continue to be advised of expected standards of best practice in line with the Civil Service Code. This code is also supported by the required professional, ethical and moral standards as set out through any individual membership of other relevant professional bodies and trade associations.
As the chartered body for public relations we have a mandate to speak out and investigate the actions of public relations professionals for the public benefit, and we will continue to challenge any behaviour which falls short of the professional standards we represent.
Honest regard for the public interest; delivering reliable and accurate information; and a commitment to never knowingly mislead are vital components of proper professional practice – and I am pleased that in this case, the DWP and GCS have confirmed that no members of the Institute were involved.
This is an opportunity to remind members of the CIPR that they are publicly accountable for the standard of their professional conduct, and the conduct of those under their management. This accountability is a valuable asset not just to members themselves, but also to the public, to clients and to those who employ them.Sarah Pinch FCIPR, CIPR President 2015Notes to editors
The original story.
A leaflet produced by the Department of Work and Pensions has been hastily withdrawn after it emerged that it contained fabricated quotations from fictitious people supposedly taking about their positive experiences of the welfare system.
The leaflet included pictures of “Sarah” and “Zac”, who were presented as sickness benefits claimants who had their some of their benefits withdrawn or had been threatened with benefit removal.
“Sarah” was quoted as saying that she had lost some of her benefit because she had initially failed to produce a CV. “I didn’t think a CV would help me but my work coach told me that all employers need one. I didn’t have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I’d lose some of my payment,” she said.
When she completed her CV, her payments were restored, the leaflet said. “My benefit is back to normal now, and I’m really pleased with how my CV looks. It’s going to help me when I’m ready to go back to work,” she was quoted as saying.
According to the leaflet, Zac said he had managed to change an appointment with his “work coach” without losing any of his benefit because he had a hospital appointment. “I had a good reason for not going to the meeting and proof of the appointment. My benefit payment hasn’t changed and we booked another meeting I could get to.”