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.