The DWP has responded to a petition urging for plans to check benefits claimants’ bank accounts for fraudulent activity to be scrapped.
The controversy relates to an amendment to the Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) (No.2) Bill, added in November 2023, which would grant new powers to the DWP in its efforts to tackle fraud and error.
A petition was created opposing the introduction of any regular bank account checks for benefit claimants, which has had almost 20,000 signatures at the time of writing.
The DWP said in its response to the petition: “We must modernise and strengthen DWP‘s legislative framework to give those fighting fraud the tools they need to stand up to future challenges and minimise the impact of genuine mistakes that can lead to debt.
“The third-party data gathering measure enables DWP to request data from third parties so we can more proactively detect fraud and error in the welfare system. Data is a powerful tool to understand whether someone is entitled to benefit.”
But the department dispelled any notion there would be regular checks of claimants’ bank accounts with the new powers.
“What this measure will do is require third parties to look within their own data and provide relevant information to DWP that may signal where claimants do not meet the eligibility criteria for the benefit they are receiving.
“The DWP will only receive data on accounts matching criteria DWP prescribe, these will be linked to eligibility criteria for benefits that, if met, may require further consideration to ensure a claim is correct through our business-as-usual processes.”
Officials said the the DWP will not have to share any personal data with third parties to get the relevant information and only a “minimum amount” of data will be requested.
“Where there is no signal of a potential overpayment no claimant information will be shared with DWP. This means the vast majority of claimants will be unaffected by this measure.”
The petition response also outlined that data will be protected, as it is working with the banking industry to make the process as “secure as possible”.
The DWP is also creating a code of practice with more details about how the measures will be implemented, which will be provided to Parliament.
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