Over 40 organisations have condemned the DWP’s plans to carry out surveillance on claimants’ bank accounts, warning that they risk a causing a much bigger version of the Horizon Post Office scandal.  Meanwhile, the Disability News Service (DNS) has uncovered a chilling example of just how wrong the DWP can get it when they start checking claimants bank accounts.

According to the Guardian this week, 42 organisations including Disability Rights UK, Big Brother Watch, Child Poverty Action Group, Mind and Age UK have written a letter to Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary.

In the letter they stress the dangers involved in the bank surveillance plan, arguing that “There are approximately 22.6 million individuals in the welfare system, including those who are disabled, sick, caregivers, job seekers, and pensioners. They should not be treated like criminals by default … The Horizon scandal saw hundreds of people wrongfully prosecuted using data from faulty software. The government must learn from this mistake – not replicate it en masse.”

Meanwhile, there is a disturbing example on the Disability News Service (DNS) website of how wrong the DWP can get bank surveillance.

The DWP threatened to suspend the benefits of a disabled woman because of bank accounts they wrongly believed belonged to her husband.  They claimed that they had information that showed an undeclared ISA savings account and a current account in his name, with his national insurance number, address and date of birth.

The claimant was given just two weeks to prove that the account was not her husband’s or have her benefits suspended.  Not surprisingly, the bank refused to supply any details to the husband about any accounts other than his own, because that would have breached data protection law.

You can read the full story on the DNS website.

If the DWP can already get things this wrong, imagine the level of error when they are dealing with many thousands of items of data constantly being forwarded to them by all the UK’s major banks.

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    Holly · 11 days ago
    The checking of bank accounts is happening by weekend birmingham mail has put article in paper
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    Anon · 24 days ago
    This legislation is now 60% through the HOL and there's another committee meeting on Wednesday, which could pass it further on it's way to becoming law.
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    PETER JENNER · 1 months ago
    Just to let you know i was contacted by the DWP about a month ago about some arrears they said they owed me dating back two years to when i first won PiP after a one year battle after being refused it. they said i had not been properly assessed when i was first awarded PiP and that they had to check if i was OK with safety with no one else having access to my account as they were paying in arrears of £7780 which they did. 
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    ET · 1 months ago
    As a benefits advisor i have come across a client who had fled domestic violence and with the help of her social worker been housed with her children in a different city to escape abuse and death threats from her husband and his family some years ago. She was aware there had been a joint account in both names, and i had advised she should try to take her name of this account. She was too afraid to do this as this might have led to him tracing where she was. There are probably more people in this situation. How would the dwp treat these people and what terrible risk would they put them in?? 
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    Hana · 1 months ago
    I didn’t get anything 
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    Kevin Dillon · 1 months ago
    The dwp have been checking bank accounts for years I don’t know why this is just getting aired I personally HSVD been pulled into the dwp building because someone used my account for a payment from their father. Although I do not like posting on sites like this as it’s but private snd needs to be to hero claimants safe from scrutiny
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    Andy · 1 months ago
    The systemic criminalisation of the disabled should be challenged in the European Court of Human Rights. 
    This current corruption, although a product of a Tory government is unlikely to be reversed even under the incoming Labour government. 
    It is much more likely to be extended to pensioners and other vulnerable groups... it won't stop with the disabled. 
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    steven ball · 1 months ago
    This also happened to me in 2010 I was called into my local jobcentre for an interview.
    At the appointment the first words from the DWP staff member was ‘’ you have been called in for this interview because you had not declared a bank account so we are investigating you on a case of fraud’’

    When stating my bank accounts had been declared only having 2 accounts 1 being a joint account to cover all bills etc the other being my private account
     
    When asking what bank details had been found for this new account I was told it's not up to the DWP to prove this account was not mine but for me to prove this new account was not mine.

    I asked if I could have the sort code and account number for this supposed bank account and was told I had no right to ask for this and was refused the details under the confidentiality act.

    Then asked how I was supposed to prove this account was not mine if not giving me sort code and account number being told again it's not up to the DWP to prove this account was not mine but for me to prove this account was not mine.

    And told all my benefits had been suspended from this day.

    I had to supply a letter from my bank giving all my details of my bank accounts.

    When supplying a letter from my bank with the details I was told by the same DWP person that these details were already on file and they were only investigating this other account. I asked again for details of this account again being refused the details under the confidentiality act.

    And was then informed I had to supply 2 years worth of statements for each account. After the way I was spoken to at the meeting and over the phone put me into battle mode.

    And used the confidentiality act against the DWP because my 2nd bank account was a joint and my partner was in full time employment and was not claiming any benefits.
     
    He informed them he would not release any information about our joint bank details unless a formal letter was sent from the DWP requesting this.

    Of course they refused to do this so when sending them the 2 year bank statements from the joint bank account he blacked out any of his transactions and signed each blacked out transaction and included a letter stating under the confidentiality act he was not prepared to supply the DWP with any of his personal transactions from this account.

    I sent a detailed letter to my MP telling him about my experience that was going on with the DWP naming the person dealing with my case.

    Although it was a further 2 months before the case was dropped without any apology and my benefits were reinstated it did give me great pleasure by fighting back.

    I can imagine what will happen now if they are given this legal power
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    Vicky pickard · 1 months ago
    During covid my autistic daughter was phoned by dwp fraud department. 
    They claimed they had seen her bank account and it had £52000.00.
    It actually had 20 pence in it. And had never since being opened had £52000.00 in it. I phoned them on her behalf and was told they were never wrong. We had to go out and buy a printer and print years worth of statements to send. If the end they phoned and said case closed. No apology. As you can imagine this had a devastating effect on my daughter with resulted in her nearly losing her life through a serious suicide attempt.
    How could they have send something that didn't exist. They don't care how many people they destroy 
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    WinstonSmithy · 1 months ago
    It's clear to me that the DWP will one day be able to question what and why you bought goods on your bank statement.  This move by the state is the first shift in moving toward the process of micro-managing claiments Bank accounts. Just like pushing citizens toward the smart technologies where everything is quantified, measured and questioned. We are moving steadily outside the perimeters of Orwell's 1984 with these moves by the state through policy. Where does it end. It ends with all citizens being treated in the same way further down the road. 
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    Terry Clay · 1 months ago
    Why not include all citizens and check that they are also compliant with their tax liabilities.
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    Patricia · 1 months ago
    This new rule is disgusting and discriminating.  So if your disability &, trying to live with an illness that through no fault of yr own, means you are unable to work, & have to rely on benefits,,you aren't awarded the same privacy laws as those not affected by a disability..
    Its unbelievable.  So disability means not given same rights as those not..So by definition, discrimnated against.  Why is this government allowed to disregard the law..?
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    Kate · 1 months ago
    It's a disgrace because you are disabled you gave less rights than other people to privacy.
    We should be able to monitor all public employees then  eg M.Ps who are paid by the public purse.They should have the same rules as us.But they are the rich and privileged so they don't have to stick to the rules 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Paul Clappison · 1 months ago
      @kazasid "It must include all residents"

      What do you mean? Are you saying you think the Government should have the right to request everyone's bank statements? 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      kazasid · 1 months ago
      @Kate Kate, I love your comment, but why sytop there. It must include all residents, or no-one - that simple

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      Sja · 1 months ago
      @Kate So 👍 true
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    FluffingSickOfBeingSick · 1 months ago
    Recently, my husband and I received an updated award notice from the council re: our housing benefit, that listed our bank accounts. We have one joint current account, two separate current accounts, and a couple of savings accounts that we use 'jam jar' style. One for our annual trip to see family, one for Christmas, and one for bills. The date for the balances they showed was in September, but because we put this money aside (which we're able to by not smoking, drinking, not celebrating birthdays, not paying for expensive mobile phones/packages, not having Sky or other TV packages, and generally scrimping and saving), at certain points in the year (especially around my husband's payday), there could be a combined balance £3k across these accounts which means we'd start losing benefits. This, combined with the fact that government computer systems don't exactly have the most favourable track record (I'm looking at you, Horizon), I'm now thinking 'cash is king'. I'll have to go back to using actual jam jars and hiding cash around the house, because the DWP (and the council) are invading my privacy.
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      Sct ponies · 1 months ago
      @FluffingSickOfBeingSick I've started using cash for day to day purchases that would most likely been seen as too luxury for a disabled person and by that I mean the odd coffee or lunch out. The only other things I spend money on is bills, maybe they will decide I spend too much on electricity and tell me to turn my heating off next..
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      Sja · 1 months ago
      @FluffingSickOfBeingSick I actually experienced similar goings on years ago with myself and my mum 
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    PickedOnByDWP · 1 months ago
    The same thing happened to me: the DWP found a bank account with £30k in it under my name and birth date and I had to prove it wasn't mine but of course the bank wouldn't give me the details to prove it wasn't mine because it wasn't mine! Took 6 months of stress and threats of prison. I tried to kill myself. And at the end of it all I got £70 in compensation for the distress caused. I've now changed my name to prevent this ever happening again! But since then, at least once a year (twice so far in 2024!) I get "randomly selected" for a full bank check as they claim there's fraudulent activity! 
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    Neil · 1 months ago
    It is impossible to prove a negative. Years ago the dwp asked me to prove I didn’t have any savings in an account somewhere. I responded by saying it was impossible did they really expect me to contact every bank, Building Society, investment fund etc etc in the world to get a pile of letters saying I didn’t have an account with them. Surprisingly they backed off and never bothered me again 
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    Andy · 1 months ago
    It won't make any difference, they will push ahead regardless. The DWP don't care about the 'little people '. 
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      Haz · 1 months ago
      @Andy Yes, they do these risk assessments, to see if big payouts to some ruined little prosecuted, or suicidal people is worth the risk, and they find it is, 
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