New DWP bank account ‘terrifying’ and will ‘decimate civil liberties’

The Department for Work and Pensions has warned that raiding the bank accounts of benefit claimants will “decimate civil liberties”. More than a quarter of a million people have called on the government to scrap “terrifying” plans to let the DWP “snoop” into the bank accounts of benefit claimants.

Participants warn the plans will lead to a “major expansion of government power” and 270,000 people have signed petitions calling on the government to scrap the plans. “No one should be checking their bank accounts without a very good reason. Yet that is what these surveillance powers will allow, threatening everyone’s financial privacy in the process,” said Susannah Copson, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch.

“If these algorithmic monitoring systems go wrong, the elderly, the disabled and the poor will be most at risk. We are witnessing another Horizon scandal, but on a staggering scale.” Marion Fellows, formerly the SNP’s disability spokesman, warned the Tory bill would “decimate civil liberties”.

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“It’s a very slippery slope,” she told the Big Issue. “It’s not just the people who get the benefits, it’s the people who rent them, their friends or family, whoever is involved with them. This is just an insidious way of actually tracking people who have given no reason for the surveillance.

“And the really worrying point for me is that I don’t think the next Labor government – and I think there’s no doubt they’ll form the government – will do anything about it.” Britain’s Information Commissioner John Edwards said the new powers “could be interpreted more broadly”.

He warned that the bill “leaves it open to be interpreted and applied more widely than the DWP’s stated intention” and could lead to an “attack on those who have long-term disabilities, visible or invisible”.

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