DWP bank accounts plans let them spy on you. Here’s what to do

  • Post last modified:March 27, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is now planning to snoop on the bank accounts of chronically ill, disabled, and non-working people using AI. If your reaction to that is ‘Oh my God’, then you’d be right. However, people are fighting back against this latest horror show – which comes in the wake of the UN accusing the DWP and government of causing disabled people’s deaths.

DWP: snooping on your bank account

As the Guardian reported, the DWP:

is seeking new powers to require banks to trawl the accounts of millions of people who receive benefits in an effort to cut the £8bn currently lost annually to welfare fraud and error. The plan is close to being passed into law by parliament and will be “fully automated”, the government said. It is likely to use artificial intelligence to flag activity considered suspicious by the DWP.

Of course, the idea of ‘benefit fraud’ is a right-wing construct not grounded in reality. As the Canary previously reported, half a billion pounds of “low suspicion” fraud in 2020/21 that the DWP claimed was fraud was based on its assumptions. Moreover, what the DWP calls “high suspicion” fraud was also based on no evidence. So, again the DWP reported potentially billions of pounds of fraud here, without evidence.

Overall, the actual figure of real fraud compared to what the DWP assumes is fraud (but may often not be) is likely a lot lower than the £8.3bn it publicly declared. Bear in mind £1.9bn of it was done by organised criminals.

As we’ve seen, this hardline approach is nothing new. This is the department which saw around 35,000 claimants die on its watch between 2011-2018. 90 people a month were dying after the DWP told them they were fit for work.

However, none of this is stopping the DWP from wanting to persecute chronically ill, disabled, and non-working claimants even further. So, a petition is calling on the DWP to scrap it’s snooping plans.

Sign the petition about the DWP bank accounts

The petition states:

The DWP is considering bringing in new policies that would allow the DWP to see what benefits claimants are spending their money on. Their justification is to clamp down on overpayments and fraud, but fraud is involved in less than 1 percent of PIP (Personal Independence Payment) claims, and 3.1 percent across all benefits.

Overpayments could be prevented by other measures. I believe that what we spend our money on is a private matter and we shouldn’t have to justify ourselves to anyone. Disabled people claiming PIP and other disability-related benefits buy the things they need to make life more tolerable and to help them to overcome barriers and difficulties, like mobility aids and care.

These things could be classed as “luxury” purchases by others, but they are necessary for disabled people. The dignity and right to privacy of benefits claimants must be preserved.

You can sign the petition here.

Of course, the DWP also systemically underpays both working-age and health and disability-related benefit claimants. Its accounts show that in 2022-23, it underpaid claimants £3.3bn of the money they were entitled to, including:

  • £680m of Universal Credit.
  • £900m of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
  • £670m of State Pension.

Of the £3.3bn, £1.2bn was the DWP’s fault, and the rest was (it claimed) due to “claimant error”.

New powers have “no place in our democracy”

Charity Disability Rights UK has written an open letter with dozens of other organisations to the government. It states:

These are exceptionally broad and invasive powers, the like of which we have never seen before. Given the clear engagement of the right to privacy and the likely impact of these powers on some of the most vulnerable in society, it was entirely inappropriate that they were introduced late on in the Bill’s passage through the House of Commons at Report Stage – almost 9 months after the Bill was introduced, meaning that they have not been adequately scrutinised by MPs.

These powers have no place in this Bill or our democracy. They are an unprecedented and disproportionate invasion of the public’s financial privacy, the effect of which will be felt most sharply by the most vulnerable in our society.

The push to tackle ‘benefit fraud’ has been one of the most toxic political agendas of recent years. It’s played into ‘scrounger’ narratives which have allowed successive governments to cut benefits – to the point where the UN accused them of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s rights.

Now, snooping on chronically ill and disabled people’s bank accounts is yet another nail in the coffin of the idea of a ‘social security safety net’. The DWP’s plans must be resisted.

Featured image via the DWP – YouTube

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