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DVLA refuse to back down over revealing benefits details online

DVLA are refusing to back down over publishing details of who gets certain disability benefits in a vehicle registration look-up service on their website.

Yesterday Benefits and Work revealed that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We asked DVLA for a statement, which we have now received.

A DVLA spokesperson told Benefits and Work:

“The Vehicle Enquiry Service does not include any personal data. It allows people to check online what information DVLA holds about a vehicle, including details of the vehicle’s tax class to make sure that local authorities and parking companies do not inadvertently issue parking penalties where parking concessions apply.

“There is no data breach - the information on a vehicle’s tax class that is displayed on the Vehicle Enquiry Service does not constitute personal data. It is merely a descriptive word for a tax class.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be much of a defence.

The road tax for a car in band F, for example, is £145. The car will be in band F regardless of who owns it.

But if you get the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA then you will be exempt from paying that £145 tax. If someone else buys the car off you, however, and they do not receive a mobility benefit then they will pay the full band F tax.

What DVLA is doing is not publishing the car’s tax class – that remains the same whoever the owner is - they are publishing details of the exempt status of the individual who currently owns it.

That is personal data about the individual, not data about the vehicle.

The claim that it is necessary to make this information public to ensure that local authorities and parking companies do not apply parking penalties is extremely questionable.

If that was the sole purpose, then the database could be on a site where access is restricted only to local authorities and parking companies. There is simply no reason for this information to be made available to the entire population – except that it is cheaper and more convenient to do so

From 1 October tax discs are being phased out and there will no longer be a requirement for you to display one on your vehicle. So, the only way that anyone will be able to discover if you are exempt from paying vehicle tax on the grounds of disability will be to access the new DVLA database.

There are many people who clearly have a condition that would allow them to claim DLA or PIP mobility. But there are also many other people with conditions such as ME/CFS where it will not be apparent at all -  and they may prefer the fact that they are disabled to remain unknown to their neighbours.

In addition, many thousands of claimants are eligible for the standard rate of PIP mobility solely because they have an ‘invisible’ mental health condition which, again, they may not wish their neighbours to be aware of.

One of the most common tips for surviving life on benefits sent to us by claimants earlier this year was never to tell anyone who didn’t need to know that you were claiming benefits. There is such a degree of prejudice and hostility towards sick and disabled claimants that many people wish to keep their benefits status confidential.

DVLA, however, have decided that for the sake of their convenience those people will have to put up with this information being made available online.

If the DWP were to provide a similar service on their website allowing you to look up who is getting disability benefits there would be an outcry.

What DVLA are doing is no different - and no more defensible.

Readers who are concerned that their personal data is being made available in this way may want to contact DVLA and the information commissioner’s office.

Comments  

#30 S Slack 2015-02-08 16:41
some who are not in recept of disability payments can get a blue badge. They have to pay car Tax. They can park on yellow lines on the road. Only people with disability DLA Benefits & DVLA registration can park free in council car parks. A local council can decide to give blue badge to somebody who can show the need is significant. The benefit agency law decide to give DLA Benefits, not public opinion or willfull jelliousy of the public. Victim of this type of skull duggery myself.
+1 #29 michelle3434 2014-07-22 16:45
Jim, thank you for your clarification. That will be the reason the ICO have accepted my FOI request by email- because I did include my name and address in it.

I misunderstood what you wrote, and thought they would only accept
a FOI written and posted via Royal Mail.
#28 Jim Allison 2014-07-22 14:53
Quoting michelle3434:
Just phoned the ICO and they said my FOI had been accepted via email. The address I used was accessicoinformation@ico.org.uk

I have a neighbour who works in a car sales showroom he has a few cars which belong to him and his family, strangely enough a look up of those vehicles on the DVLA site show them as not being found, so I wonder if you know how to is it maybe possible to not have your information open to the public. He is unfortunately not the type of person I could ask, he is protective regards the age of his cars hence has private number plates on two but not on the third so if his information could be witheld he would certainly have done that.

Hope I dont sound like a snooper I am just so horrified at what the DVLA are doing I am trying to find out any avenue to stop the DVLA having disabled information open to the public.


Yes, that's true you can contact the ICO by e-mail, but if you want to ask what contact they've had with the DVLA and wish to know the outcome using the Freedom of Information Act, you have to provide a name and address. I've done numerous FOI requests over the years and it's compulsory under the Act to provide a name and address, an e-mail address will not be accepted, unless you include in the e-mail your full name & address which of course remains confidential to the ICO.
+1 #27 michelle3434 2014-07-22 11:15
Just phoned the ICO and they said my FOI had been accepted via email. The address I used was accessicoinformation@ico.org.uk

I have a neighbour who works in a car sales showroom he has a few cars which belong to him and his family, strangely enough a look up of those vehicles on the DVLA site show them as not being found, so I wonder if you know how to is it maybe possible to not have your information open to the public. He is unfortunately not the type of person I could ask, he is protective regards the age of his cars hence has private number plates on two but not on the third so if his information could be witheld he would certainly have done that.

Hope I dont sound like a snooper I am just so horrified at what the DVLA are doing I am trying to find out any avenue to stop the DVLA having disabled information open to the public.
+1 #26 michelle3434 2014-07-21 17:17
I could be wrong but when I went onto the ICO website for their address under the heading on the first page Make a request for information it appears to give a link from that to an email address to make a FOI.

My apologies to Jim Allison if I am wrong.
+1 #25 Jim Allison 2014-07-21 16:00
Quoting Jim Allison:
Hi All,

Having spoken to ICO on two occasions, I've now submitted a Freedom of Information to the ICO asking what contact they've had with the DVLA over this issue and what was the outcome.

Will post further when I receive a reply. I predict the DVLA will argue that they're using the word 'disabled' as the taxation class, and not to describe the person, lets hope I'm wrong.


There is little that can be done until I receive the results of my FOI Act from the ICO.

However, it would do no harm if other members could also submit FOI requests to the ICO, but to do so you must provide the ICO with your name and address, which of course will be confidential. The FOI Act requires this. Unfortunately, FOI requests cannot be made by e-mail.

Addendum. Requests can be made via e-mail, but the e-mail must contain your full name and address. Sorry I didn't make this clear.
+2 #24 Kasbah 2014-07-21 14:39
Quote:
I would be worried that this could lead to mischievous members of the public reporting disabled people to the DWP maliciously because its not always fully apparent that the degree of disability requires a blue badge because symptoms are often sporadic. My brother has already been reported in this way and the DWP stopped his benefits and he had a long fight to get them reinstated.
I completely understand your concerns-I am concerned for similar reasons. There is an individual in our community who goes out of her way to hurt anyone who parks outside her bungalow, even though there are no double yellow lines and she has a large drive plus a large garage. I will go nowhere near her bungalow in my car anymore
+1 #23 michelle3434 2014-07-21 13:32
The DVLA wrote that I may be interested to know that the word 'disabled' does not apply to the registered keeper, the driver or any other living indivifual., it describes the tax class applied to the vehicle which is not covered by the dara protection".

I thought however, there was some sort of protection regards anyone publishing something on the web openly to the public that meant although an individual is not named, if from that information the person in some way could be identified it is wrong to do.
+1 #22 Jim Allison 2014-07-21 12:55
Hi All,

Having spoken to ICO on two occasions, I've now submitted a Freedom of Information to the ICO asking what contact they've had with the DVLA over this issue and what was the outcome.

Will post further when I receive a reply. I predict the DVLA will argue that they're using the word 'disabled' as the taxation class, and not to describe the person, lets hope I'm wrong.
+1 #21 michelle3434 2014-07-21 10:55
Just spoken to the ICO about the DVLA refusing my request under section 10 of the data protection act to remove the word disabled from my details.

When I spoke to someone previously at the ICO it was them who told me to quote this legislation. Today the person at the ICO said that bit of legislation cannot be quoted as what the DVlA are doing is not in breach of that, the only thing the ICO can investigate is how the DVLA
are handling the information, which is a different matter for the ICO to investigate.
-2 #20 Pateo 2014-07-16 23:06
The Disabled Tax class belongs to the vehicle and not the registered keeper.
The registered keeper may not even be disabled but keeps and runs the vehicle on behalf of and "solely for the purpose of" a severely disabled dependent, for example a parent of a disabled child (or adult) who is not even qualified, fit or old enough to to drive. ..or a professional carer for an unrelated adult.
quote:
The vehicle must be registered in the disabled person’s name or their nominated driver’s name. It must only be used for the disabled person’s personal needs. It can’t be used by the nominated driver for their own personal use.
www.gov.uk/financial-help-disabled/vehicles-and-transport
#19 rich-ward 2014-07-16 16:27
Quoting Pateo:
Being invisibly disabled and more or less ambulant, I advertise the fact with "Disabled" logos: two on the windscreen and one at the back.

I also have large bumper stickers across the back...from Invisible Disabilities Association, a USA organization.

Writ large: "Some disabilities are invisible" & "You can have my parking space, but take my disability with it!" & " IGNORANCE is the greatest disability"

Storm in a tea-cup....nothing better to whinge about, folks?

YES, sure, I am also terrified and completely paranoid about losing DLA but in the greater scheme of things: visit the Third World and realize your great good fortune to have it..It is a major privilege and not a human right.


Nobody here is 'whinging'.

I personally do not consider my disability and my reliance on benefits to be able to live my day to day life while coping with an increasingly hostile and negative attitude from the world encouraged by the Government's determination to continually make life as difficult as possible for those who already face enough challenges dealing with day to day living , as a major privilege.
-3 #18 Pateo 2014-07-16 13:02
Being invisibly disabled and more or less ambulant, I advertise the fact with "Disabled" logos: two on the windscreen and one at the back.

I also have large bumper stickers across the back...from Invisible Disabilities Association, a USA organization.

Writ large: "Some disabilities are invisible" & "You can have my parking space, but take my disability with it!" & " IGNORANCE is the greatest disability"

Storm in a tea-cup....noth ing better to whinge about, folks?

YES, sure, I am also terrified and completely paranoid about losing DLA but in the greater scheme of things: visit the Third World and realize your great good fortune to have it..It is a major privilege and not a human right.
+4 #17 Robert Adam 2014-07-07 18:54
What my main objective is
WHY DOES THIS DVLA VEHICLE CHECK SYSTEM HAVE TO BE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC ? MAKE IT AVAILABLE TO PARKING COMPANIES AND APNR COMPANIES ONLY .
Type in any car make and registration you see in the street and you get all the data for that vehicle . Try your own disabled tax car and you get that aswell .That has to be open to abuse with cars being cloaned etc or other things by vehicle reated criminals .

If it has to be open to the public for nosey noras and nosey norris to report people for untaxed cars or idiots with false suspected benefit fraud allegatios then at least the dvla and dwp can say what purpose its there for . Seems this government can and will do anything to cut people off there benefit .

Its not there for the registered keeper to use thats for sure or we would have been told about it because we are informed well in advance by mail with letters for our tax disabled or not . There never late when it comesto revenues
-3 #16 Forrest 2014-07-06 18:21
Quoting bro58:
"Forrest" is stating very similar views to those of "Flymo" on Youreable. In fact, one could quite easily be forgiven for erroneously surmising that they are one in the same poster.


They are the same poster. For reasons to do with Youreable's spam filter, I finished up with a different nickname there. I posted directly here to summarise what I felt were the important parts of the Youreable thread and didn't intend to mislead anyone as to who I am.


Quoting bro58:
"The Law is The Law", then there is plain old "Right and Wrong".

The decision on whether or not the information in question is in contravention of Data Protection Laws should be left up to the "powers that be".

If people feel aggrieved they can complain, it is their right.


My posts here and on Youreable were aimed primarily at examining the legal position and the potential justification for DVLA's policy.

Nobody else has, to my knowledge, suggested making a section 10 Data Protection Act 1998 complaint. A successful s. 10 complaint would prevent DVLA from disclosing the DISABLED taxation class. I have explicitly encouraged those aggrieved to make that complaint. However, I felt it was important to point out that there is some room to doubt whether the taxation class fits the legal definition of personal data.


I've also tried to be clear that there are mechanisms to change policy irrespective of legal rights, such as complaining to your MP. I have also encouraged those who feel strongly to make those complaints.


The intention behind my comments is to inform and to empower people. I do not pretend to have the last word and my personal views are unimportant.

I'm not trying to bamboozle people out of complaining. If people are aggrieved by this policy, they should complain and I urge them to do so.
+3 #15 bro58 2014-07-06 13:39
Quote:
Thanks for bringing this situation to people's attention.

Interesting thread on the Youreable forum about this issue.
Ah !! Yes there is :

http://www.youreable.com/forums/showthread.php/8391-DVLA-Sharing-Disabled-People-s-Personal-Information-Publicly

"Forrest" is stating very similar views to those of "Flymo" on Youreable. In fact, one could quite easily be forgiven for erroneously surmising that they are one in the same poster.

"The Law is The Law", then there is plain old "Right and Wrong".

The decision on whether or not the information in question is in contravention of Data Protection Laws should be left up to the "powers that be".

If people feel aggrieved they can complain, it is their right.

If nobody ever complained about such issues purely because they felt, or were informed that a law had not been breached, then little would change for the better.

The tide of public opinion is a powerful tool, this has been proven by the various campaigns against welfare reforms.
+1 #14 rich-ward 2014-07-06 11:59
Thanks for bringing this situation to people's attention.

Interesting thread on the Youreable forum about this issue.
-2 #13 Forrest 2014-07-06 09:58
I see I've got voted down for comments that merely aimed to inform. I'm not arguing that this DVLA policy is right, I'm just trying to give a balanced view of the situation and point out that the legal position might not be clear cut.


Whether the taxation class feels like personal data about the disabled person and whether it is in a legal sense might be two different things. I have explained why I believe it is unclear whether the taxation class is personal data in the legal sense.

If someone affected believes this policy causes them substantial and unwarranted damage or distress, I would urge them to make the section 10 Data Protection Act 1998 complaint to DVLA I mentioned in comment #8 to test the situation. (In this context, substantial = more than trivial, unwarranted = not justified by the benefits of disclosure, which is why I discussed that in comment #8 as well). I wrote to inform people of their rights in the hope they would feel more empowered to use them.


As always, matters of policy can be taken up with the policy makers. It is open to anyone who is unhappy with this policy to take it up with their MP who will be able to contact the relevant ministers. lcdemon (comment #1) has done this already, and I would urge anyone else unhappy with this policy to do this also. MPs are more empowered to act when they know the strength of feeling from their constituents.
+3 #12 johnboy 2014-07-06 09:09
I would be worried that this could lead to mischievous members of the public reporting disabled people to the DWP maliciously because its not always fully apparent that the degree of disability requires a blue badge because symptoms are often sporadic. My brother has already been reported in this way and the DWP stopped his benefits and he had a long fight to get them reinstated.
-2 #11 Forrest 2014-07-05 17:01
Quoting Forrest:
I suspect those three things are passed to the DWP system for validation, which simply returns a "valid" or "not valid" response to DVLA.


On further reflection, DWP's computer might also return an end date for the exemption, especially as once we have no paper tax discs there is no need for tax to run in whole months.

As well as, or instead of, an end date, DWP's computer may well return some sort of reference that allows DVLA to check the ongoing validity of the exemption. This would allow the VED exempt status of the vehicle to be revoked if the disabled person loses their exemption.

Even if both these things are implemented, it doesn't affect my conclusion in comment #8 that DVLA might be unable to identify the disabled person to whom the exemption relates using data that is, or is likely to come into, their possession. I am still doubtful whether the taxation class is personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998 definition.


I may send DVLA a subject access request for vehicle records relating to me. I own one car, for which I am the registered keeper. The car is VED exempt based on the exemption certificate that was part of my PIP award letter. If there is anything identifying me as the disabled person that qualifies my car for the exemption, this subject access request should return it.

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