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13 March 2007

Claimants may soon have access to details of the benefits they receive online, potentially making it easier for advice agencies to help with benefits problems, but also raising fears about security. The DWP plans to expand the 'Government Gateway' which currently allows claimants to make online claims for some benefits, including DLA and AA. By April 2008, it is intended that the Gateway - to be renamed 'Your DWP' - will include details of all the benefits an individual claimant receives and the rates at which they are paid.

This could save considerable amounts of time, and return visits, when claimants seek help with their benefits from an advice agency. At present, unless a claimant knows precisely which benefits they are getting and at what rates, then the first job of an adviser is to establish these facts. Often this will either involve long periods of waiting for DWP call centres to answer the phone and provide the information or the sending out of forms of authority and letters of enquiry to different government departments. If, however, claimants sign up to the Government Gateway, in the future they will be able to provide this information to any adviser with access to the internet simply by typing in their password and username.

There will, however, undoubtedly be concerns about confidentiality and security as the Gateway will contain information that would be of considerable value to organised fraudsters and identity thieves. In addition, the current method of creating passwords used by the Government Gateway system makes them virtually impossible to memorise, meaning that claimants will have to write their password down - something most organisations strongly advise against.

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