Friday, January 9, 2015

DWP Consulting On Sharing Claimants’ Private Information With Other Organisations

Campaigner Gail Ward shares ths summary of an Inside Housing article on Facebook.

box data shared
Plans to share a host of data on benefit claimants, including health records and IT literacy, with landlords and charities have been condemned by a national tenant organisation.

Michael Gelling, chair of the tenants’ and residents’ Organisation of England (TAROE), said the government’s proposals for Universal credit claimants went ‘too far’ and were ‘very, very dangerous’.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is until Monday consulting on measures to allow sharing of information about claimants between the department, councils, housing associations, Citizens Advice bureaux, credit unions and charities. This is to enable organisations to provide support to claimants to stop them falling into arrears or struggling with debt.

Data to be shared includes details of debts, benefits, health conditions, qualifications, and level of digital skills. Mr Gelling said: ‘I don’t know how secure my landlords’ IT systems are.’

He added: ‘It’s very, very dangerous stuff without having a conversation with people. [The information] is none of social landlords’ business, as long as the rent is getting paid.

‘The DWP shouldn’t be telling organisations people are on universal credit. Some people, not everybody, can actually manage their benefits and get on with their life. Why does the landlord need to know?’

A housing expert, who did not want to be named, said she was ‘surprised at how extensive’ the information set to be shared was.

Housing associations and councils have called for more data-sharing with the DWP so that they will know when tenants are claiming – universal credit and they can be offered support.

Under the draft regulations, universal credit claimants must be told about the information sharing and can object.

The consultation document says objecting to information sharing can ‘undermine’ an individual’s claim. ‘Claimants will therefore need to be advised about the possible adverse consequences of objecting,’ the document says.

A DWP spokesperson said objecting to information sharing could make it difficult for claimants to get the support they need, but it would have no impact on their claim.

She added the proposals had been drafted in conjunction with councils and representative organisations, and that there were safeguards in place to protect the information.

Under universal credit, tenants who previously had their rent paid to their landlord will receive their benefit for housing costs directly.

Social landlords are concerned that some tenants will consequently fail to pay their rent, and fall into rent arrears.

As Gail Ward adds: This is absolutely scary to many.Health conditions that people may want to keep private,financial data that should be private. This is a clear breach of privacy and for the disabled will be yet another human and disability right destroyed.