Claiming Benefits: Without an email address or telephone number? Sanctions? Extensive DWP opinions

Note: Questions to the DWP on making a benefit claim and disclosure of a personal email address and phone number, withdrawing consent for contact by email or phone and possible sanctions.

DWP A: “Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 19 August 2013.  A response should have been issued to you by 16 September; unfortunately in this case we have failed to meet this deadline. Please accept our apologies.

The Freedom of Information Act provides a right of access to recorded information held by a public authority like DWP (subject to certain exemptions). The Act does not provide that a  public authority must create new information to answer questions; nor does it provide that a public authority give advice, opinion or explanation in relation to issues/policies under question.

However, we have tried to answer your questions in order to be helpful.

Part A: It is not part of a new Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal
Credit (UC) claim or ongoing one for the DWP to record a person’s [1]
telephone number or [2] email address. Can you therefore advise how
someone can ensure the DWP do not record this personal data [1][2]
during any claim?

As part of the process of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants are asked to supply, but are not obliged to provide, their telephone number. Those making a claim online can also choose to provide an email address in order to receive acknowledgement that they have made a claim (see response to Part C for further information). If the claimant provides either of these details then the DWP is obliged to process this information in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires for example, that data processing performed by DWP is adequate.

As part of the process of claiming Universal Credit (UC), claimants are asked to supply, but are not obliged to provide, a telephone number or an email address.  If the claimant provides either of these details then the DWP is obliged to process this information in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires for example, that data processing performed by DWP is adequate.

Part B: With this in mind is it possible to confirm having a Universal
Jobmatch account, when directed to create one, without be required to
disclose to any DWP representative or Jobcentre Adviser either [1] or
[2]?

It is possible for a claimant to create a Universal Jobmatch (UJ) account without disclosing to a DWP representative or Jobcentre Adviser, either their telephone number or email address.

UJ is a DWP system and it is not possible for a claimant to create an account without providing their email address during the registration process.  DWP advisers are able to see the names and email addresses of people who have created a UJ profile.  However, they are not able to conclude that a particular person named is a particular JSA claimant, or that the email address belongs to a particular claimant unless the claimant tells the adviser that the email address is theirs or they give DWP advisers access to their account.

DWP policy is that advisers are not able to access claimants’ UJ accounts unless the claimant has ticked the box within UJ to give DWP advisers access.  In such a case, the claimant must also tell the adviser either their email address (used in their UJ profile) or telephone number (used in their UJ CV) in order for the adviser to access their account.  If a claimant has not provided DWP with account access then they will need to confirm they have created an account, if required to do so, by providing evidence to their adviser.  This evidence need not disclose the claimant’s email address or telephone number.  If a claimant fails to provide sufficient evidence to show that they have complied with a requirement to create a profile and public CV in UJ without good reason, their benefit will be affected.

Part C: Is it possible to make a claim for [3] JSA without requiring
disclosure and recording by the DWP of either [1] or [2]? If this is
possible please disclose the process to be followed?

Yes, this is possible. If a claimant tries to make a claim to JSA online and finds they cannot do so because they haven’t got a phone number, or they do not wish to disclose it, they will be directed to make a claim to JSA by phone. Where the claim is made by telephone, or in paper form, claimants are asked to supply, but are not obliged to provide, a telephone number.

Claimants are not asked to provide their email address in order to make a claim to JSA for any of the claim methods. However, claimants making a claim online are given the option of providing an email address if they wish to receive an acknowledgement that they have made a claim. The email address is then deleted; it is not accessible by the DWP and is not part of the claim process.

Part D: Is it possible to make a claim for [3] UC without requiring disclosure and recording by the DWP of either [1] or [2]? If this is possible please disclose the process to be followed?

Yes. UC claims (in some circumstances, with a telephony agent entering the claimant’s details on their behalf) must be made on-line. Claimants are asked to supply, but are not obliged to provide, a telephone number or an email address.

Part E: Is it possible to have a Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg), without requiring disclosure and recording by the DWP of either [1] or [2]? If this is possible please disclose the process to be followed?

Yes, it is possible to have a Jobseeker’s Agreement without disclosing or recording the
claimant’s telephone number or email address. There is no set down process for this.

Part F: Is it possible to have a Claimant Commitment (CC), without requiring disclosure and recording by the DWP of either [1] or [2]? If this is possible please disclose the process to be followed?

Yes, it is possible to have a Claimant Commitment without disclosing or recording the
claimant’s telephone number or email address. There is no set down process for this.

Part G: Under Privacy and Electronic Regulations does the DWP require consent to be able to contact by either [1] or [2] for people claiming JSA or UC?

DWP considers that the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EU Directive) Regulations 2003 (PECR) do not require DWP to obtain claimants’ consent in order for DWP to contact them by telephone or email for purposes connected to their benefit claim or award, or about any conditionality requirements they may be required to meet.

DWP is however required to comply with PECR requirements when using email or telephone communications for direct marketing purposes.  In some circumstances, such communications require DWP to obtain the recipient’s consent.

Part H: Can someone in receipt of JSA or UC withdraw consent from the DWP contacting them by either [1] or [2], without being subject to sanctions and for such a consent withdrawal to be recorded in their JSAg or CC and the claim to remain valid? If it is possible please disclose the process to be followed?

Yes, a claimant can inform the DWP that they do not want to be contacted by a phone and/or email at any time. There is no set down process for this. There is no requirement to record this on either a Jobseeker’s Agreement or Claimant Commitment.  This would not make the claimant’s claim invalid.  There are no sanctions that would directly result from withdrawing consent to be contacted by telephone or email.

In terms of Universal Jobmatch, if you have a ‘Saved Search’ and you have set it up to receive email alerts to let you know when a match has been found from the search criteria you saved, you will need to edit your search and select the ‘None’ option if you no longer wish to receive them

Part I: If a personal email address or phone number is provided to the DWP, without restraint on how the DWP may use such, is it permissible to provide ones that are used by more than one person, with the email password being shared with such other people. like say a unified email address or phone number for use by many?

Yes, it is for the claimant to decide what telephone number or email address they wish to use, whether they are shared or otherwise.

However, From a Universal Jobmatch (UJ) perspective, UJ requires a unique e-mail to open an account. One person could open an account using a joint e-mail address but any other owners of that e-mail address could not then open a UJ account using the same e-mail address If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team
From: Operations FOI Requests
Department for Work and Pensions
7 November 2013”
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/173669/response/447574/attach/html/3/Response%203933.pdf.html

Notes: Welfare rights law and DWP guidance, in particular, changes frequently. You may find more recent information via http://refuted.org.uk/category/ or by using the website search facility (top right)

Advertisements