The DWP is to begin continuous surveillance of the bank accounts of all pension credit, universal credit and employment and support allowance claimants using powers under a bill currently going through Parliament.  The department have said that they intend to use their new power to force any third party to pass on data to them more widely in the future.

The power to compel third parties into providing any data that the DWP wants in order to search for fraud and error is being conferred in last minute amendments slipped into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which has now passed its third reading in the Commons and moved to the Lords.

Initially the DWP say that they will use their powers to oblige the UK’s top 15 banks to monitor the accounts of all means-tested benefits claimants and report every time an account goes over the  capital limit or is used abroad for more than four weeks.

Because every DWP payment into a bank account has an identifying code attached to it, all banks know exactly which of their customers is on benefits and which benefits they receive.

Setting up software to automatically send details to the DWP of every claimant account that goes over the capital limit or is used abroad for more than four weeks will be very straightforward for banks.

The DWP say that each identified claim will be investigated in the normal way and that penalties will not be automatically imposed.

At the moment, almost 9 million claimants would be caught in the surveillance net, including:

  • 5.8 million universal credit claimants
  • 1.6 million employment and support allowance claimants
  • 1.4 million pension credit claimants

Any bank failing to collect and pass on data to the DWP will be subject to heavy fines.

 The new system will begin to be rolled out in 2025, though all banks may not be fully involved before 2030.

The DWP estimates that it will cost around £30 million a year for them to investigate potential fraud identified by the new system, but that they will save £500 million a year through reduced fraud and error.  

They also estimate that over the first ten years, the new powers will result in 74,000 prosecution cases and 2,500 custodial sentences.  

There is no doubt that the DWP intend to use these new powers much more widely.  The impact assessment for the new powers says that:

“The power is not limited to a specific type of data or type of institution/Third-Party to allow us to fight new fraud and error issues as they emerge and engage with new institutions as efficient opportunities become available to us.”

Later, the same document says: 

“This measure is drafted broadly . . .  to enable DWP to apply this measure to non-financial organisations in future if it is deemed appropriate and proportionate”

The new surveillance powers for the DWP appear to enjoy cross party support. Only 51 MPs voted against the amendment, with 30 of those being SNP and just 7 each from Labour and the Lib Dems.

Anyone who imagines that the DWP will use such sweeping powers reasonably and proportionately probably hasn’t ever claimed benefits.

And they probably also don’t remember the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which was brought in to combat terrorism and organised crime and ended up being used to spy on dog walkers, pigeon feeders and people putting out their wheelie bins too early.

Capital and abroad fraud account for less than 15% of benefits fraud and error. The DWP will want to delve into many other aspects of claimants lives in order to identify the other 85%.  This is, beyond doubt, the thin end of a very thick wedge.

You can download a copy of the amendments to the Data Protection and Digital information Bill here.  The Power To Require Information For Social Security Purposes section begins on page 98.

You can read the impact assessment for the DWP surveillance powers here.

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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Lorna · 6 days ago
    I had a message yesterday 15th Feb 2024, saying I'd 've having a call about my UC review.  I was a bit confused because it's usually an awful form you have to fill in. However this is purely they want 4 months bank statements and a photo of my passport and me holding my passport 😕 ... I have 14 days to provide it all. I'm very confused
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      James · 2 days ago
      @Lorna Me too. I have PTSD. It's coercion under punitive threat of sanctions. 


      Quote:

      "If you do not complete these to-dos, then either:

      your payment COULD [empathise added] be stopped and then your claim MIGHT [empathise added] be closed
      [empathise added]
      I will not cede access to my bank account statements. However, I will discuss the review with an agent and ask them a series of pointed questions and record the conversation in case I need to pursue a civil lawsuit in case of sanctions (The bill is still at the reading stage and is not enshrined in law).




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      Arkham · 5 days ago
      @Lorna This is normal as i had one of these in november, these are being done as a lot of claims were made during covid and the bank statements ect were not requested back then. Pretty straight forward his is and nothing to worry about.
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    Jp · 6 days ago
    Does anyone know if non means tested benefits will be monitored as well?

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      Andy · 3 days ago
      @Jp They will only give information to the DWP if you are making lots of transactions abroad or paying utilities in a foreign country. It is an offence not to tell the DWP that you have gone abroad or are living abroad. 
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      Jp · 3 days ago
      @Andy Thanks.    It is just so wrong that they will be monitoring non means tested benefits people as well, and as I haven't been abroad in over 20 yrs so its not irrelevant to me.

      What kind of information will the banks be giving to the DWP then for non means tested people if there savings amount is irrelevant?     

      I understand the need to check for fraud etc but the UK is becoming more and more unrecognisable every day.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Andy · 5 days ago
      @Jp They have said PIP and state pension are going to be monitored, neither of these are means tested.
      From what I have gathered, the DWP will be checking these to make sure the claimant is living in the UK and hasn't gone abroad for an extended period or to live.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Linda · 7 days ago
    Please sign the petition on the Parliament website, search checking bank accounts
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    Joe · 9 days ago
    Does anyone have any idea when this will start? 
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    SG · 14 days ago
    There goes more of our human rights to privacy. 
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    Jon Burrows · 18 days ago
    There are hundreds of posts saying that it's a good ideas?
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      Shameonyou · 14 days ago
      @Jon Burrows Where?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The Dog mother · 17 days ago
      @Jon Burrows Nothing good about it. 
      They are mostly those who feel they've nothing to hide saying it, so what's the problem?.
      We all have nothing to hide,but there's a principal at stake here.
      Who next? What next? Where will it lead.They are including pensioners on this facade.
      We might be sick and disabled but our dignity and self worth are eroded at the stroke of a pen.
      Why us? why.. we've done nothing other than be unwell. I didn't ask for my conditions nor do I want them.
      I'm not enjoying My life ,I'm not even living it in any real sense, mainly because I'm afraid to look out of my eyes incase I'm classed as being able to do things I honestly can't properly and called a fraud.
      I know many others on here are feeling likewise. I cannot believe this is 2024.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ABC · 19 days ago
    Hi, what about a closed bank account? I moved banks about 6 months ago. Would they check the closed one from the old bank? Thanks
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    Paul Oakley · 20 days ago
    I past my pip review last year and was awarded 10 yrs on the 17th of January this year I've now had a letter for compliance telephone interview to discuss my benefit claim so in other words its from the fraud department this wasn't supposed to come into action until 2025 so this untrue I don't know why they have choose me because I have nothing to hide so everyone be alert and good luck 
    Paul
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      Rosie · 12 days ago
      @Paul Oakley Yes, you can claim pip even if you work full time. I heard they don’t investigate 
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      Andy · 14 days ago
      @Bob There is no £6000 for pip, you can be millionaire and claim it, if you are eligible 
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      Bob · 14 days ago
      @Paul Oakley It could be that you’ve gone over the £6000 limit 
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      Mary C · 19 days ago
      @Paul Oakley Complaince interviews are sometimes just totally random. Sometimes they are checking you are getting all you're entitled to. Dont assume its fraud department. 
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    Quizzer · 21 days ago
    Surely these police powers being sought by DWP to scrutinise specific groups of claimants might be viewed as discrimatory.

    Under the 2010 Equaltiy Act disabled people should be treated the same as someone without disability and some of these benefits are specifically related to an individual's incapacity.

    How is benefit fraud any different to corporate or expenses fraud. How many MPs have committed fraud with their expenses claims?  Yvette Cooper and hubby for example made duplicate expenses claims and when discovered said neither had known that the other had claimed for the same expenses. How many policticians have banked their incomes abroad beyond reach of HMRC taxes? Therefore, should there be a case to monitor MP's bank accounts for error or fraud?

    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Mary C · 19 days ago
      @Quizzer No as they are not targgwting disabled people. They are targeting a big range PC UC & ESA
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ABC · 23 days ago
    Does anyone know when or if this will get through the house of lords?
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      Dan · 2 days ago
      @J Facts
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      J · 6 days ago
      @ABC Who knows but they should start at the top every lord n mp is comitting tax fraud claiming on houses they rent out fraudulent expense claims and having parties on our tax money during lockdowns ... will I pay less tax on my wage if they stop all the fraud answer is no , what about all the immigrants getting money and houses but they choose to pic on disability people and struggling families 
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    D · 23 days ago
    Also are these checks real time like whe DWP calculate your UC payment , or will they check the entire account history since opened ? And what about closed accounts from years ago , will they be checked ? Not that I ever had savings etc but I had a bad gambling problem and would have to go through everything , it would be a nightmare to explain the ins and outs 
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      Jan · 20 hours ago
      @Dan Yes it's another chapter from 1984
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jan · 20 hours ago
      @D I'm sure that's a lot of resources for checking that far , they wouldn't have
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      Tim · 1 days ago
      @D Hello there D, that nightmarish checking you are concerned about. This will not happen. Some real people will evaluate circumstances after the 'Tin Man' (Ai) So please don't feel anxious. I get the feeling you are doing well. All the best, Tim.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Dan · 2 days ago
      @D Read George or wells 1984
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      D · 23 days ago
      @pp Sorry pp but where have you read that they are going to ask excatlly what we spend our money on ? And also where have you heard that if you take it out in cash they are going to want an explanation? I haven't heard that anywhere and I love read up on this alot , as I understand it it's for savings limits and if your abroad for to long and they check in any active bank account you have 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    D · 23 days ago
    I have read that they will test it from 2025 , before starting to roll it out fully from 2027 finishing in 2030 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jan · 20 hours ago
      @D That seems strange, such a massive scale and then ending it 
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    reasonstobecheerful · 25 days ago
    I think you're right @Aaron when you say they're not going to be catching anyone intentionally committing fraud. I made that point when I responded to the "consultation" (yeah right) on changes to the wca. It's only the "skint little people" will be clobbered.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sara · 25 days ago
    Hey Joe, don't apologise, keep spamming!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Aaron · 25 days ago
    The hilarious thing is, those who may be commiting fraud are not using the same bank accounts that they have their benefits paid into. Some are using online bank accounts. So they ain't really going to be catching anyone intentionally committing fraud, and just cause complete an utter unnecessary stress to vulnerable being accused of all sorts when normally there's an honest explanation. 

    If anyone is disabled  and claims, dont think they won't use your spending habits against you. That one birthday you went to that took you months to prepare for and exhausted you.. yeah they will use that. That holiday you saved years for.. yep they will use that. 

    Cash is king! 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Jan · 20 hours ago
      @Aaron Online is still at a bank , and the bank will be able to link 
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      rookie · 25 days ago
      @Aaron @Aaron, true dat! So exactly the examples - months to prepare for and exhausted you - so feeling that.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sara · 26 days ago
    Sign the Wendy Scott petition in Stacey's post below. If it keeps being signed at the current rate it will exceed the 100,000 signatures needed for debate.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ABC · 27 days ago
    Hi, this mentions it will only be for means tested benefits. I am on contbased esa. How will the banks know who is on cont based esa and who is on imcome based esa?
    Thanks
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      BirtyB · 21 days ago
      @ABC Hi ABC, if you are in contribution based ESA, then the amount of capital that you have would not have any effect on your ESA. An alert might be sent to DWP, but they would close it as no effect on the benefit
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      pp · 25 days ago
      @ABC Also PIP isn't means tested but also still be monitored.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      pp · 25 days ago
      @ABC My understanding from reading their articles, they're clearly saying that all claimants have a code, which will flag up their "secret criteria". Non of their articles say that it will be only means tested, also it will be difficult to separate the means tested from the contribution based if they're going by the codes. How is this going to work?
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      ABC · 26 days ago
      @rookie I think it's only pension credit. This is means tested as far as i know
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      rookie · 26 days ago
      @ABC Good question, I have wondered the same about contribution related and going over a limit when there is no limit, plus how or will banks differentiate between assessable  and disregarded capital? I suppose the issue of spending time abroad will still apply. Pensioners would be surveilled too, so it's not all about means testing.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Stacey · 27 days ago
    Here is a link to the government petition to my one against this - 

    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/650940
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sara · 27 days ago
    Hi Toadstool. Some of my comment and the link didn't post, so trying again. Contribution/New Style esa is not means tested and you will continue to get it if you stay in support group/lcwra. The info about child tax credits is near the end of this article:

  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Sara · 27 days ago
    and the link I posted below explains how child tax credits are not affected by savings, but please check with an adviser.
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