We’ve had the following request from Rob Booth, Social Affairs Correspondent for The Guardian:
We are trying to find out what happens when people make UC applications and they are processed by the DWP’s computer technology or how their applications are handled by local authorities when they make council tax benefit and housing benefit claims.
None of the authorities are particularly open how they use computer software to carry out what is known as “risk based verification” – their way of deciding how likely a claim is to be fraudulent or erroneous. We do know that some use commercially bought software which matches an individual’s application with other information about the bought commercially – eg from credit score agencies. Given the impact of this process on people’s welfare we need to know more.
I am looking to see if there are half a dozen (or more) people who claim (or have recently claimed) UC or Council Tax or Housing Benefit who want to find out.
The way we could do this is for each individual to make a subject access request asking for how their data has been handled. I can help with this there is a set way of asking for the information. The template is pasted below and feel free to distribute this to anyone who might be interested. I think the right address for requests for the DWP is firstname.lastname@example.org It will vary for local authorities, but is often the data protection officer.
Organisations have a month to respond to subject access requests so I am keen to see if we could lodge them by the end of next week, the first week of September. Any information that comes back is of course the requester’s but I would like to be able to see the responses and report on them. I can of course do this anonymously, and would understand anyone requesting that.
If you are interested in taking part, please contact:
Social affairs correspondent, The Guardian
+44 (20) 33532319
+44 07946 518256
SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST
[YOUR FULL ADDRESS]
[NAME OF AUTHORITY]
[ADDRESS OF AUTHORITY]
I am writing to make a Subject Access Request for a copy of the data you hold about me, to which I am entitled under the Data Protection Act 2018.
[YOUR FULL NAME, ADDRESS, PLUS ANY OTHER INFORMATION TO HELP IDENTIFY YOU]
I am writing with reference to processing of my personal data for the purposes of my application for Universal Credit (OR OTHER BENEFIT) on (DATE OF APPLICATION).
Please supply the data relating to:
What risk category was assigned to me through the Risk Based Verification process?
What categories of personal information about me were processed for this Risk Based Verification analysis?
How was personal information about me sourced, other than the data obtained from me directly?
How did the Risk Based Verification result affect the processing of the claim and the additional personal information I was asked to provide?
What organisation provided the Risk Based Verification software used to process my data and can you supply any manuals or presentations about how it operates?
Who are the recipients or categories of recipient you have or will disclose my risk category and or other personal data to?
For how long will you retain my personal data or, what are your criteria for determining how long you will store it?
If you require any further information regarding the request, please notify me as soon as possible. I look forward to receiving your response to my request within one calendar month, as per my right under the Data Protection Act 2018.
If you are not familiar with dealing with these requests, please forward this letter to your Data Protection Officer, or a relevant staff member.