The government has issued a dismissive response to a petition on the Parliament website in relation to surveillance of claimants’ bank accounts, claiming that concerns are based on misconceptions. The response also ignores the fact that the DWP have provided a blueprint for any fraudsters who wish to avoid the measures .

The petition on the parliament website is one of three petitions currently open on the subject.  It has had just under 20,000 signatories, far short of the 100,000 required to be considered for a debate in Parliament.

In its response, the government argues that:

“There are a number of misconceptions about this measure, namely, it does not grant DWP access to any bank accounts and it does not allow DWP to see how claimants are spending their money.”

Benefits and Work has always been clear that the current plan is restricted to checking whether accounts have gone over the capital limit and whether claimants have been using their account abroad for an extended period.

However, many people would consider this requirement for banks to share data on claimants of means-tested benefits to be over-intrusive and discriminatory in itself, regardless of the nature of the data. 

After all, wealthy individuals do not have their accounts monitored to ensure that they have declared all their income, even though tax avoidance costs the UK a great deal more than benefit fraud.

Moreover, the DWP admit themselves that the surveillance will be trivially simple for fraudsters to avoid and, to ensure that is the case, have even provided instructions on how to do so. 

To start with, in their impact assessment they have provided a list of all 15 banks that they plan to monitor, leaving fraudsters free to simply to bank elsewhere.  The DWP have said that they may include other banks in the future, but fraudsters know that they have at least several years of worry free banking.

Additionally, the DWP also admit that they will only be monitoring the account that the claimant has their benefit paid into.  There is nothing to stop fraudsters moving money into another account to stay below the capital limit.  As the impact assessment explains:

“. . .claimants may split capital across multiple bank accounts to ensure that there is not £16,000 or above with one provider. This would allow claimants to go undetected by this measure and reduce its effectiveness.”

As an anti-fraud measure, banking surveillance of this sort seems designed solely to catch those who innocently or mistakenly break the rules, not those who do so in a deliberate and organised fashion.

And the measure raises other issues, such as cases where a carer has the claimant’s money paid into their own account.  If their combined income takes them over the capital limit, will this lead to suspension of benefits whilst fraud investigations take place?

Perhaps more worrying still, though, is the blanket nature of the legislation, which allows the DWP to require any organisation to hand over any data the DWP requests or face a large fine.

It means that the DWP may be starting small with its data collection, but there are literally no limits to how far it could extend its reach.  With the growing power and prevalence of AI, there will be a strong temptation for the DWP to harvest and process huge amounts of data to catch a small number of fraudsters. 

From what we know of the DWP, we suspect they will not resist that temptation for long.

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    naheegan · 2 days ago
    The assessment didn't seem particularly transparent. So I had a load of questions about all this and did some digging. If this is interesting or helpful to anyone that's grand.

    Under this proposed legislation, banks will be required to report account details to DWP if accounts are over an 'allowed amount'. DWP is given the account details by the banks for potential 'fraud investigation'.

    The benefits that will be scrutinised are UC, ESA, PC, HB, Incapacity Benefit, Income Support. According to the impact assessment; likely more in future.

    They will be looking for claimant behavioural changes, for example in the impact assessment they will look for: "claimants may split capital across multiple bank accounts to ensure that there is not £16,000 or above with one (banking) provider. This would allow claimants to go undetected by this measure and reduce its effectiveness." I'm guessing they will also look at new patterns of cash withdrawals.

    Initially, the testing of this 'fraud surveillance' will begin in 2025, and full roll out scheduled for 2030.

    15 banks are currently in the telescope of DWP for data sharing. Foreign banks will not be required to share data with DWP, only UK financial institutions. These banks are: Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyd's Bank, Metro Bank, Monzo Bank Limited, NatWest, Nationwide Building Society, Santander, Starling Bank, The Co-Op Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, TSB, and Yorkshire Bank.

    Here are the the bank account capital limits that DWP has confirmed:

    A capital limit of £16,000 if you are claiming any of these means-tested benefits:

    Universal Credit
    Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
    Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    Income Support
    Housing Benefit (under State Pension age)

    This £16,000 limit will stay unchanged when the new increased benefit rates come into effect in April 2024.

    Incapacity Benefit --- not found.

    For pensioners, the amounts differ:

    PC --- Pension Credit, the first £10,000 of savings is not taken into account But £1/wk deduction for every £500 over that.

    HB Pension-age --- Up to £10,000 in savings before it affects your claim. Every £500 over that amount counts as £1 of weekly income.

    NB They are specifically looking at means tested benefits. Cold Weather Payment and some CoL payments are means-tested and go directly into bank accounts -and increase the amount of capital-, it may be worth it to withdraw these sums as cash. Of course cash withdrawals for transport, clothing, food and other dailies are normal and shouldn't attract undue attention.

    Good questions and comments in the comments below, thank you everyone.


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      Fred · 17 hours ago
      @naheegan And I'm guessing Labour are happy to just let this slide too ? 
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    SCO · 3 days ago
    I could be wrong but i'm sure i read somewhere that they will be checking the account the benefit is paid into and any account linked to it. Am i wrong?
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      Gem · 1 days ago
      @D Where???
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      D · 1 days ago
      @naheegan I read They are only going to start testing it in 2025 with two undecided banks or building societies from the 15 and the DWP plans to start rolling it out fully from 2027 and finish by 2030
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      naheegan · 2 days ago
      @SCO You are correct. They will be checking the account details of accounts that specific benefits are paid into. Specifically the amounts in those accounts or multiple accounts that benefits are paid into -the total of all accounts. 

      The account totals that are over 'allowed amounts' will be flagged by banks and the data given to DWP. 

      If people are interested, I did a seperate post with more detail and the answers I found to some of my own questions.
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    pp · 7 days ago
    I am feeling a little suspicious in what they have said in their response to the petition. For months, they've been boasting how effective the new software system was going to be in catching the fraudsters. And now they've completely gone the other way. Even admitting to making it easier for fraudsters to change their banks to other smaller banks that aren't included in the 15 banks. It doesn't make sense to me after spending all that money in the A1 software, they're now saying only a few people will be impacted.  I'm now wondering is this a ploy to catch people out and draw attention to themselves. If someone now changes their bank to another which isn't included in the 15 banks. They will almost suspect that person has something to hide by doing this and make it easier for them.
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    Keith Greer · 8 days ago
    As many people have had over a £1000  Cost of living payments made to them in the last 12 months, this could lead them to have exceeded the £6000 limit without them realising it. This would make them potentially at risk of a fine or worse.
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      Deano · 8 days ago
      @Keith Greer The £1000 cost of living payment can be disregarded for up to 12 months as far as I am aware, it's the same as with PIP any payments of PIP and UC/ESA they have to deduct £691 from the money over £6000 before they can deduct anything from a payment of UC/ESA.
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    Roderick Smith · 8 days ago
    How long does it take until you get a decision on whether you are entitled to PIP?
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    Rose · 8 days ago
    Can we state which banks it’s not monitoring as a point of principle
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      Gingin · 8 days ago
      @Rose There's a list of the 15 banks that will be monitored initially in the impact assessment - click on the purple text 'impact assessment' in the article above.
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    Liz · 9 days ago
    So which banks aren't handing over peoples data? They won't gain much from looking at mine but as a matter of principle I'd move to one that isn't sharing, depending on service.
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      Ben · 8 days ago
      @Liz I suspect that the smaller the bank or building society the better. What about credit unions?
      On the Money Saving Expert site there are often banks and building societies I have never heard of. 
      Keep using cash as much as possible.
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    Jax · 9 days ago
    I had a telephone review of my benefits. I was asked what the cheque was for, that was paid into my bank account and he knew the exact amount of the cheque. This was in aprox 2014. So they already look at your bank account without your permission.
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      Fred · 17 hours ago
      @Jax Thought they were only allowed to go back 6 years?
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    Diane · 9 days ago
    My daughter had to produce bank details, passport etc as they are checking accounts. She has chronic COPD and most of her shopping is delivered. However, when she gets someone to go to the supermarket she gives them cash.
    The DWP phoned her and asked why was she taking out £100 every week from the ATM. She explained she didn't give anybody her bank card so she made sure she had cash available if someone got her a few bits. The DWP  said it was "suspicious".
    Who the hell do they think they are? She can hardly breathe and is reliant on oxygen. 
    Diane
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      Jill · 5 days ago
      @Diane Thats disgusting your poor wee daughter. X
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      Deano · 8 days ago
      @Diane When I was on ESA I used to withdraw £300 at a time from my account and the DWP never questioned me why I was withdrawing the money. If they had I would have given them some BS excuse because it's not up to them what I have in my bank account.
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      MrFibro · 8 days ago
      @Diane Hi Diane,

      If your daughter didnt give out any cash for shopping etc, then they would soon stop her monies coz she would be over the 6k limit.  You just couldn't make this load of clowns up even if you tried.
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    Jenny · 9 days ago
    I recently had a review of my benefits over the phone and they have asked for my bank statement should I provide them?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jenny · 6 days ago
      @Fibrogal Thanks 
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      Fibrogal · 9 days ago
      @Jenny Yes you should provide them. They do ask for them now and again 
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      Andy · 9 days ago
      @Jenny Definitely you should. If you don't they will think you have something to hide. They could ask for more information or even suspend your benefits until you supply the statements they ask for.
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    Cuckoo · 9 days ago
    "And the response makes no mention of the fact that, in its published impact statement, the DWP provides a list of all 15 banks that they plan to monitor, leaving fraudsters free to simply to bank elsewhere"  Any reputable bank who is a member of Financial Services Authority will be included as I understand it.
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    Archie · 9 days ago
    These changes whilst not perhaps intended to be punitive, will doubtless further harass numerous claimants already dealing with complex, ever-changing rules whilstsimaltaneously coping with illness, social challenges etc. It is an inevitability that the progressive use of AI could and likely will be used to gradually extend the parameters of 'big brother' looking over your affairs. 


    This is exemplified by the majority of politicians who use their position to make money above and beyond their salaries, whilst neglecting their obligations and responsibilities to their constituents. It's off topic, but its about time we had professional politicians who are not part of a ' network of connections " designed to allow them all to proper to the detriment of those they should serve.

    I am not convinced by arguments that their ' backgrounds ' aid their parliamentary work - rather that these serve to allow them to enrich themselves and their friends. If the government was more concerned and more effective at really tackling fraud and waste , it might have more resources to stop penny-pinching from the sick, old and the challenged ....


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    Jane · 9 days ago
    After 9 months I have my ADP decision. Enhanced daily agreed. Standard mobility. Marked 10 points for following a journey etc. When GP and Surgeon wrote 15 metres max . Mobility degeneration needing two replacement (2nd time for both) hips and knees. However, 0 for moving around in home. Surgeon letter states 15 metres maximum movement in home. Prone to falls and cannot get out of chair easily etc., needs carer's help.  Other problems noted too.  Apparently I was told due to coming over from PIP I'm not allowed to be given a higher award because I am over pension age?  I'm baffled and bewildered. Too frightened to send appeal back as told I could lose what I've been awarded. Can anyone please shine a light on this. Thank you.
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      Gingin · 8 days ago
      @Jane I understand that the level of your PIP award can't be changed once you're over pension age, but I'm not an expert so prepared to be corrected. 
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    pp · 12 days ago
    Didn't Mel Stride say in his interview a few months ago," Fraudsters have nowhere to run. We will not tolerate people stealing from the post who need this. So basically the innocent will suffer, if the A1 software randomly flags up their bank account, giving them the opportunity to dig deeper and even going back years to look for any discrepancy that's almost not going to be there.
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      Scared · 8 days ago
      @Andy Where do you get 12 years from? There was someone who got done who told me they went back 30 years! his whole life of claiming! Although I wonder if changing bank accounts or banking systems might also influence this. E.g. Alliance and Leicester accounts going over to Santander and presumably a new software system.
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      Andy · 11 days ago
      @pp Yes, they can go back 12 years to check a claim.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    pp · 12 days ago
    So now they have done a Uturn to catch the fraudsters, and even admitting making it easier for them to do so.

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    The Dog mother · 12 days ago
    Those who didn't sign think the outcome won't apply to them.. people have learned nothing!
    It's a slippery slope.
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    anees292 · 13 days ago
    Even though some good news what not expected in this government. 
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      George Mair. · 9 days ago
      @anees292 I think the Government MPs Bank Accounts should be looked at for fraud because I think the general public would be surprised at the amount of fraud is going on there all these second jobs false expense  claims and the rest?
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