To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the Information Commissioner’s letter to her Department of 10 April 2019 which stated that explicit consent for universal credit was unduly restrictive, if she will make it her policy to (a) remove the requirement for explicit consent for universal credit and (b) enable representatives to speak on a client's behalf.
The Universal Credit (UC) system is structured around an online personal account which contains all the information relevant to the claim. This includes claimants’ bank account details, savings, capital, medical history, family relationships and address information, which means that we have a responsibility to ensure that a high level of security and protection is in place, and that we take all reasonable steps to protect our claimants and their data which includes ensuring that consent is explicitly given to share it.
As the amount of personal data available on UC is far greater than in the legacy benefit systems, any data breach has far reaching consequences for claimants, and so we need to balance consent against this risk. Therefore, a policy of explicit consent exists to help reduce the risk of fraud by ensuring that claimants’ data is kept safe from unscrupulous organisations and individuals. The emphasis here is not to hinder people receiving support to help them make and manage their claim, but to make sure we protect claimants’ personal data and other information.
Where explicit consent is needed it can be quickly given in different ways; over the phone or via the online journal, at any time during a UC claim. This is a far simpler and more straightforward process than in the legacy benefit systems. Once consent is given, we will work with claimants’ representatives.
Following the Social Security Advisory Committee’s report into consent in UC on
8 September 2020, the Department continues to consider how best to safeguard personal data moving forward, whilst allowing those claimants needing support from representatives to do so in a safe and secure manner.