The DWP may be illegally breaching sick and disabled claimants’ confidentiality by failing to provide a private room for work-focused interviews in seventy percent of its Jobcentre Plus offices.

The DWP were asked last month in a Freedom of Information act request:

“Please can you confirm whether every Job Centre Plus location has a private interview room available for work focused interviews?

“If private rooms are not available in every JCP, please confirm what % of job centres have private interview rooms.”

The questioner said they were asking in response to the claim by Mims Davies, DWP minister for disabled people, that the DWP was supporting claimants with mental health conditions by adopting a “Trauma Informed Approach”.  According to Davies, this would ensure that to “anyone interacting with our services feels as safe, empowered and understood as possible; this will underpin our ongoing commitment to compassionate coaching and tailored services.”

However, in its response this month to the question about private interview rooms, the DWP stated that:

“Not every jobcentre has a publicly available interview room. Approximately 30% of our jobcentre network have one or more of these facilities.”

This means that claimants with physical or mental health issues which affect their ability to work may in seven out of ten jobcentre offices, have to discuss these in a public space.  This is the very antithesis of making people feel “safe, empowered and understood”.

The failure to provide a confidential area for such discussions may breach a number of laws.

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act protects your right to respect for your private life.  Forcing claimants to discuss their health issues in a public space or lose benefits seems to be a clear breach of this right.

 The Equality Act 2010 gives everyone the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Organisations must not discriminate against you in relation to protected characteristics, including disability.

Obliging disabled claimants to discuss deeply confidential matters relating to their health and medical history in a public space appears to be clearly discriminatory and may also constitute a failure to make reasonable adjustments if a claimant asks to have a private room for such discussions.  The DWP is a massively resourced organisation and it is not credible for them to argue that it would be too costly for them to provide a confidential space in each jobcentre.

The failure to provide a private space may also be a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR covers information that forms part of a filing system or is intended to form part of a filing system.  Health information collected from a claimant at a work-focused interview is unquestionably intended to be recorded in writing and form part of a filing system.

In David Scott v LGBT Foundation Ltd [2020] EWHC 483 (QB), the High Court ruled that oral information was not covered by what was then the Data Protection Act.  However, in that case the defendant – a counselling organisation - passed on details of the appellant’s’ self-harming to their GP after they were disclosed in a telephone call.

However, it is likely that this case could be distinguished from the treatment of disabled claimants in Jobcentres on a number of grounds. 

The LGBT Foundation’s policy, which the appellant had agreed to, allowed for them to breach confidentiality where there was a risk to a client if they did not.  Breaching confidentiality by failing to provide a private space is a very different issue.

In addition, there was no element of coercion in that relationship, whereas the DWP can render a claimant destitute if they do not take part in a work-focused interview.

At Benefits and Work we are not specialists in the Human Rights Act, the Equality Act or the GDPR, but we hope that there are organisations out there who may be able to support claimants who have their right to confidentiality breached in this shamelessly cost-cutting manner.

Have you had your right to confidentiality breached by the DWP.  Please let us know in the comments section below.

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    Diane · 1 months ago
    On 5th April 2024 my work coach had me in tears and was speaking to me like a child in the open plan office.  Her voice was raised and she questioned how I could possibly return to my Industry having been away from it since late 2019.  It was on my record that I have been suffering with PTSD and PND and she obliterated every bit of confidence I had managed to rebuild.  The work coach did not behave in accordance with their Customer Charter and yet I am still awaiting a response to my complaint and expected to attend the Job Centre to be treated like that.  I cried for 10 days after the ordeal.  Despite contacting various MPs, no one is responding.  They are bullying claimants and nothing is being done.  There needs to be some kind of investigation into how these Civil Servants are treating people.  Sadly, no one is interested.  
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    Tired MUM · 1 months ago
    I act as officially as appointee for 2 of my sons and unofficially for a 3rd. The experiences we have endured during claims and assessments is on the whole poor, no respect for claimants and in some cases deliberately cruel and antagonistic. Have supported eldest son at many JobCentre appointments the lunacy of schemes, questions so called support strategies to help him into work is diabolical. Wanting to know  details of diagnosis , what problems he has , why , has even been asked how long have you had it, how long do you think it will last. He has Asperger's,  a neurodivergent brain, he will always have it, there is no cure , his difficulties will always affect him, they have no idea how difficult all this is for him and they don't care.  I am so proud that he is still here and still trying to get on in life despite their best efforts.  Next son , ADHD/ASD  very challenging  and volatile left traumatised by school and life since. All appointments carried out without any regard to privacy.  At a face to face claiming DLA, examiner kept pushing him, I believe deliberately trying to induce a meltdown, very antagonistic.  Several times told me to shut up, I pointed out several times I was officially his appointee and could see he was distressed and I had the right to answer for him. He was very unprofessional , at the end he said "I don't make the decisions but I'm telling you now you'll get nothing"  He wasn't awarded, I asked for report as would be doing a MR , report was a poor work of fiction, it was 4 pages long. My MR was 14 pages long and the final sentence was I wished to make an official complaint. He got DLA middle rate care and low mobility.  I have done 3 MR's,  2 tribunals 1 over 2 sittings and although successful the trauma and anxiety caused is beyond the pale.
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    Carole · 1 months ago
    My husband passed away on the 11/11/2013  I had to claim job seekers after caring for him and getting carers allowance. I was grieving at the time and asked for a private room I was refused and sat in the office in front of all other claiments in tears and was still not offered any where private .Cheetham Hill Job Centre Crumpsall Greater Manchester. 
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    Jace · 1 months ago
    The older ones used to have trap style interview sections 1-5 I think I only used it twice. I remember the done any work this week sign here. 80's mass unemployment room full of queues. So not very private but nobody cared because they were mostly in the same place as you. 
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    Rachel Evans · 1 months ago
    Every  single time I've been to the jobcentre I have had my interviews on the open floor for everyone to hear. This is at Bodmin, Cornwall. I am on ESA WR
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    Anna · 1 months ago
    More than a decade ago, I took my son to the job centre to look for work. He is autistic. When we got to the head of the queue, they asked us for his National Insurance Number. I refused as we could be overheard and my son's identity stolen. I wonder how often benefit fraud is a result of this behaviour? It would be easy enough to lurk in the job centre and make notes. Eventually they let us talk at the back of a nearly empty large open plan office. If my son had gone by himself, he probably would not have forseen the possible danger.

    On another occasion, having made an appointment a couple of months in advance, we were interviewed in a corridor as someone else was in the only available private room. Not acceptable.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Icandy07 · 1 months ago
    When I moved to universal credit I had to visit my local jobcentre which had no private room, everyone in the room could hear everything my coach and myself were saying, it was really embarrassing, and very unfair.
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    Sidney · 1 months ago
    Hi, I just have comment on this! Over 12years ago, I had to go to the job centre and had to sit in what was a massive office with just a petition between me and the person next door, I could hear all that was said so I asked for a private room, cutting a long story short, I was told that's is not going to happen, whereupon I said this is a breach of confidentiality! My money was stopped by them and I quote ' because I refused to engage with them' I was told to leave by the security people and had to fight to reinstate my benefits. When I left there that day, I had a serious panic attack, since then I still experience such attacks if I get any correspondence from the DWP!
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    Uzo Mbonu · 1 months ago
    I have had my data breached. I have had interviews at DWP office where my problems were discussed in the open and to everybody's hearing. It is appalling.
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    Linda · 1 months ago
    All my .ESA appointments take place in open plan offices.Also,as regards treating claimants with dignity and respect,in one occasion a.member of Job Centre staff refused me access to use the toilet there(even directing  meelsewhere to other facilities that,if I had gone to use,would have then made me late for the appointment he had just checked me in for!) I couldn't believe it!!
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    QA83 · 1 months ago
    I had a telephone review and the caller was working from home. I could clearly hear kids and an adult in the room with her but when I asked if my call was private she said yes, nobody was within earshot and she was wearing headphones. I just had to take her word for it. 
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    Only GoodFascistIsADeadFascist · 1 months ago
    Everyone's confidentiality is automatically breached because the DWP knows what they are doing is contemptible, every interview you attend there is ALWAYS a colleague right next to the interviewer to ensure your AND THEIR "compliance". The compliance is to Fascism, nothing else. Fascism.  This has been an open secrret for 15yrs now.
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    VanillaOrchidae · 1 months ago
    I have had my data breached by DWP. I can't disclose the situation, but basically, it amounts to those interacted with in my workplace setting, knowing about things like my mental health and toileting difficulties. It's created a conflict of interest, and is basically a huge cluster ****.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Jay · 1 months ago
    Big news today. Managed Migration of legacy ESA/ESA & HB cases to Universal Credit will now be sent by the end of December 2025. The 2028/29 time frame has now gone.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Dazer 37 · 1 months ago
      @S123 Its in Birmingham News, 600000 getting migration letters and telling you migration being brought forward 3 year 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      S123 · 1 months ago
      @Jay Where was this article as I have looked and cannot find it? 
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      george · 1 months ago
      @Jay Where did you see this please ? 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The dogmother. · 1 months ago
      @Jay I've just found it. Was announced in the PMs speech. Was dreading it as it was.. now I'm terrified. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The dogmother. · 1 months ago
      @Jay I can't find anything with regards to the 2025 migration.
      Only a government statement saying 2028-29 and it's dated March this year
      When was this horror show announced.?

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    Charlie · 1 months ago
    Not specifically the job centre, but during my initial PIP phone assessment in 2020 I could hear multiple other people in the background of the call. It was upsetting and anxiety-inducing knowing that I had no privacy and that other people were hearing really intimate details about my physical and mental health. I appreciate that at the time the lockdowns made things difficult, but if someone couldn't guarantee privacy they shouldn't be doing assessments or holding phonecalls which may involve sensitive data. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    george · 1 months ago
    Yes my mother a few years ago had several appointments at job centre and had to discuss medical questions in depth in a open plan job centre although her first appointment after her 2 tribunal win was in a closed office . She did complain once saying there's people feet away from me and I'm having to discuss the most intimate medical issues of my life but nothing was done . It's disgusting how everyone is treated , no dignity at all . Presently she's having phone calls , but that even is making someone constantly go through all they suffer all the things they can't do it's very very damaging mentally , dragging you down into a depression.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      The dogmother. · 1 months ago
      @Rosie It's like dealing with a robot when you are in conversation with them.
      I've done f2f and phone 'assessments'. They just go through the motions.
      At the f2f, she never lifted her eyes from the computer to look at me. No wonder she saw things that didn't happen, funny that.
      Entire things a farce. 
      You know they are in it for one thing and one thing only ,to deny us benefits.Its not a fair playing field from start to finish.
      If you are up against someone who has the system behind them I do not see how we are meant to win.After my last interrogation I collapsed and was paranoid for almost a year after. Never been like that in my life ,the anxiety and pain was choking me.They made my MH 100% worse.she was a very young junior nurse and boy was she hard as nails.
      She asked did I use the phone a lot,I said I don't even phone my mum,and anyway she helps in my care so I see her daily at my home anyway, I don't phone anyone, ever! She replied 'Well your talking to me now aren't you'?!
      Now how do you answer that, it was a necessity I was talking to her, I don't go out either but I still need to see my gp or consultants so how is that even a legitimate question. She was just being nasty for the sake of it. 
      I could wrote a book on the nonsense, lies, mistruths and utter drivel my pip reports stated. 
      We could never fully convey the magnitude of our conditions in daily life inside a few hours to anyone. We'd miss out so much on the twists and turns that cause us suffering to be able to show how we truly suffer. Pip is not fit for purpose, never was. The whole benefits system makes sick people sicker. Its repugnant what they get away with across the board. 
       
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Rosie · 1 months ago
      @george I totally agree about the demoralising nature of the telephone assessments. These are the one time when you have to tell a complete stranger the whole list of all the things that are wrong with you and how this impacts your daily life. This is NOT a conversation you would chose to have with anyone. I'm sure that most of the time these assessments do not elicit any more information than was on the claim form, if only the DWP had bothered to read it before deciding that they needed "more information" in order to make a decision. I was seriously depressed for a few days after my last telephone assessment.
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