CIPR closes investigation into Department of Work & Pensions

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.

Sarah Pinch FCIPR, CIPR President 2015
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 2015
Notes to editors

Notes to editors

About the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)Founded in 1948, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the Royal Chartered professional body for public relations practitioners in the UK and overseas. The CIPR is the largest membership organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America. By size of turnover and number of individually registered members, we are the leading representative body for the PR profession and industry in Europe.

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).