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Only celebrities details to be kept secure by private sector Pathways companies

2 December 2007
As private sector companies begin delivering compulsory work-focused interviews today, Benefits and Work can exclusively reveal that the DWP has advised that only famous people, friends and relatives of Jobcentre Plus staff and a small number of others need have their highly sensitive personal information kept securely locked away.

Ordinary sick and disabled claimants have no right to similar protection. Both disabled people and their families may be put at risk by the ruling.

Benefits and Work has obtained copies of hundreds of pages of confidential guidance issued to private sector companies taking part in Pathways to Work, under which sick and disabled claimants must undergo a series of compulsory interviews or lose their benefits.

According to the guidance there are certain categories of people whose records are regarded as sensitive and 'are subject to certain restrictions to ensure confidentiality'. The full list of ''sensitive cases' comprises:

Prominent national figures
Well known local people
A close relative or friend of a member of Jobcentre Plus staff
Transsexuals
People at risk (e.g. of violence)

Private sector contractors have been told by the DWP that these sensitive case records 'should be kept locked away securely when not being worked on.' However, there is no such requirement to keep other claimants documents in the same secure manner. This is in spite of the fact that a huge amount of information will be held by private sector companies, including the claimants (and usually their partner's):

name;
address;
national insurance number;
date of birth;
telephone number;
details of all benefits received;
all the household's savings;
details of the amount and date of commencement of any mortgage and any arrears;
details of household income from wages, occupational pensions, investment
property, trusts, etc;
educational history;
employment history;
details of any health conditions including communicable diseases;
childcare responsibilities and details of any childminder or other childcare provision.

Only last week it was revealed that the names and national insurance numbers of thousands of claimants were put on a disc and sent to a private sector worker's home by the DWP who never bothered to ask for their return.

The current guidance relates to infinitely more sensitive data. Not only will claimants be put at risk of identity theft, but children may also be put in danger if these details fall into the wrong hands. Yet, it seems that such sensitive personal information only needs to be kept locked away if it relates to a celebrity or the friend or relative of a Jobcentre Plus employee.

© 2007 Steve Donnison