DWP shares disability data but who said they could?

The area I live in is switching off the analogue TV transmitters in September, and going all digital. The Switchover Help Scheme was set up to make sure that everyone with a TV is able to receive the digital signal, and they have been running TV adverts and posting out letters with this aim. The letters offer to sell a digital receiver and an aerial for £40, and also nag the recipient to reply to confirm whether they wish to do this or not. I have a problem with the letters that I received. Here’s the bottom part of the most recent one:

“We, DSHS Limited, are the data controller for this scheme. So that we know whether you qualify for help, we have received data from a number of public bodies including local authorities, the Veterans Agency and the Department for Work & Pensions, which may, if relevant, include whether you received any disability benefits or if you were registered as blind. We have also contacted TV Licensing to see whether there was a valid TV Licence at your address.

The Switchover Help Scheme is managed, on behalf of DSHS Limited, by Eaga plc. Eaga House, Archbold Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 1DB. Company registration number 3858865.”

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I see some issues there.

  1. The scheme is being run by a private company, DSHS Limited.
  2. That private company has sub-contracted to another, Eaga plc.
  3. The government, through the DWP, has disclosed information about who has received disability benefits to said private companies.
  4. Local authorities have also sent information to this private company.
  5. TV Licensing (Capita) have given my information to DSHS and Eaga.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty pissed off about this. I’m fairly sure that I did not at any point give permission for my local council, the Department of Work and Pensions, or TV Licensing to tell anyone my name and address, what disabilities I may have, or what benefits I might have received. I believe this violates the princicples of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Schedule 1, part 1, section 2 states:

“Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.”

At no point did anyone specify that information about benefits and disabilities was being collected for the purpose of marketing of digital television receivers.

So all parties involved have transferred my personal information to a third party without my consent, and are processing it in a way that was not specified when the data was collected. Unless someone can tell me why this is within the law I intend to make a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office.


As pointed out in the comments below, this is unfortunately legal as the government passed a law to allow it, the Digital Switchover Disclosure of Information Act 2007.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

19 thoughts on “DWP shares disability data but who said they could?”

  1. I got one too and it did cross my mind that I’d not authorised sharing of my details!

  2. They might be able to get away with it by saying that you ticked a box on a form once long ago that said they could do it, but you can counter that by asking to see that form.

  3. From the TV licence perspective they might get away with it because… if you currently hold a TV licence and do not get any equipment for the switchover, then you will no longer be able to watch TV so therefore they are doing what they can to allow you to continue what you signed up with them to be able to do.
    Now that is somewhat harder to say of the DWP and local authorities!
    I would have expected there to be general letters going out to all households telling about the changes, the equipment required, how to go about getting it and then explaining that if you were on certain benefits you would get discounts/for free.
    In this country TV is seen as a bit of a human right… they may simply assume that it is so vital that they can bypass all sorts of rules to make sure you do not miss out on your human rights!!!!!

  4. I had best not get one of these because I don’t have telly and don’t want it, so who in the HAIL gave them permission to hand my details out for spam-mail?

  5. same thing happened to me. i tried phoning the number on the letter to find out what information they had and how. All anyone would tell me was that the DWP had given them information, they wouldnt tell me exactly what the information was. I wasnt aware there was anyone we could complain to, I might try complaining too if it turns out it wasnt within the law.

  6. I received a letter from BBC offering free digibox and set up. They got my info based on DLA receipt. Not overly chuffed at passing info on but at least it was BBC and notrandom company.

  7. Aren’t Eaga the lot who install heating for disabled? The ones you see lots of complaints about. WarmFront subcontracts to them. Search moneysavingexpert.com on the Forums there to read all about them. So they’ll have disability status about such as DLA recipients, and also OAPs presumably from DWP. No such thing as privacy any more.

  8. I’m really unhappy about the DWP playing with my data. There’s some seriously sensitive stuff in there. I’d like to put in a complaint of my own – or add my name to yours.

    1. From a form ESA1:
      I also understand that the department may use the information which it has now or may get in the future to decide whether I am entitled to
      – the benefit I am claiming
      – any other benefit I have claimed
      – any other benefit I may claim in the future.

      None of that gives permission for my data to be used in relation to digital TV receivers, or, indeed, anyone outside of “the department” to use it.

  9. Thinking about this, they must have got our permission to give info to the tossers at ATOS, who are a private entity, so there is probably something somewhere on one of the forms that basically says they can give the information to anyone they like, I mean any subcontractor that does their dirty work.

    1. If you’ve filled in an IB50 or ESA50 or DLA form, in the Declaration you have to sign you agree to The DWP passing ob your information to any organization with which the Department has a contract for the provision of medical services.

      1. Namely ATOS in this case.

        However, I’ve argued with the DWP that it’s on a per form basis and does not give them “carte blanche” to do it whenever they feel like it. And the DWp take th “carte blanche” view.

  10. i used to do telephone lines for jcp, and data protection was taken VERY seriously. i never thought about the fact that they were technically sharing data with us though. we always had to send out data protection statements to customers when we made new records which said some legalese about what we would do with it. so like it was said above, there is probably a small box on a form filed away in a massive warehouse somewhere that waives loads of your rights. (because although they do keep things digitally, there is in fact three copies of every single form you’ve ever signed sitting in a box, i think the warehouse is in blackpool, but that’s mostly a guess, and if you ask they’ll spend four or five months looking for it and hope the whole thing just goes away before then.)

  11. i will refer you to the Digital Switchover Disclosure of Information Act which was passed. there has been no breach of data protection.

  12. Weasel government… give one law in one hand, and take it away with another. And we’re supposed to believe they have our best interests at heart?! LOL

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