How much do I tell myself I know?

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  • #21205
    su
    Participant

    Does anybody have any advice/reference to regs etc which spells out for me, how much I as the Benefits manager can tell myself as (Acting) Revenues manager about claimants details to assist in the recovery of unpaid Council Tax?

    Specifically can I give national insurance numbers, details of employers etc when that information was provided for claiming benefit…..

    All help greatly appreciated. 😥

    #4693
    seanosul
    Participant

    Well there are only a few legally recognised posts in local authorities; The Head of Paid Service (Chief Executive), The Director of Finance and the Section 151 Officer. So how much you tell yourself is not that relevant as you are acting on powers delegated by Councillors and Chief Officers.

    You can share pretty much everything, provided you notify your claimant of this. There are however specific exclusions for sharing Council Tax as Ministers wanted to ensure that the Council Tax was not a register in the same way the Community Charge database was (hence you are not allowed to cross reference it back to the electoral register). How much information you share within the Council depends upon what you have told the claimant you will share (I note many LAs have still not updated their declaration to reflect the fact that we share data with HMRC and the DWP never mind the same service of the Council).

    #4694
    Anonymous
    Guest

    however by revealing information to yourself you could be in breach of section 123 of the Social Security Administration Act and therefore subject to fine or imprisonment. Similarly HMRC may well pull any access you have to their information as if anything came from HMRC you are in breach of the restrictions placed in schedule 5 of the Tax Credit Act 2002

    #4695
    seanosul
    Participant

    S123 is designed to stop staff chatting about claimant x down the pub. It does not prevent the LA from using information lawfully.

    #4696
    Anonymous
    Guest

    But that’s the point, without a lawful reason to disclose the information (as set down as an authorised disclosure in 123) it can’t be done. There being no legislation saying an LA can use benefit information for any of it’s functions it can’t be done, the disclosure to another part of the LA would not be authorised and therefore 123 would apply.

    You have to remember 123 came in before the Data Protection Act and was not only intended for the ‘down the pub’ area, but also to ensure that the often sensitive information provided to benefit departments would not be subject to wider use unless the law specifically allows.

    #4697
    Kevin D
    Participant

    s.35(2) of the DPA may be of interest:

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/80029–e.htm#35

    #4698
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Although that refers to legal action rather than simply recovery of CT arreas, it may apply but not in every case. Even then it’s not an obligation, but a judgement call and considering the fair processing statements issued with HB/CTB claims I wouldn’t do it.

    For HMRC data and restriction though they don’t supply us with info for CT recovery so we would still be in breach of that for any information gained from HMRC.

    #4699
    seanosul
    Participant

    [quote:82daa22fae=”JCB”]Although that refers to legal action rather than simply recovery of CT arreas, it may apply but not in every case. Even then it’s not an obligation, but a judgement call and considering the fair processing statements issued with HB/CTB claims I wouldn’t do it.
    [/quote:82daa22fae]

    That is whole nub of my argument- it depends very heavily on what fair processing terms you have on your claim form and whether you disclose any secondary use. It is Government policy to enable the wider sharing of information between Departments and Local Authorities, using existing legislation. Local Authorities are one body in law and the DPA does not prevent you from sharing information (although in the past over zealous Local Authority Data Protection Officers argued it does – leading to the highly peverse situation that LAs are paying private tracing agents to search the electoral register that they themselves compiled).

    #4700
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Although even if we take that that interpretation, recent action by DWP/HMRC against the London Local Authorities Bill has shown that they consider further use of information within an LA a disclosure and as such they managed to remove powers put forward to allow HB/CTB data to be used for CT arrears and sundry debtors.

    That objection was declared in the house and recorded with the relevant clauses being removed so it’s still not clear cut. DCA advice also recognises that HB/CTB data is restricted and cannot be used for general council uses.

    The fair processing statement isn’t therefore a solution, as with about 70% of cases coming through DWP with their statement on our behalf (and I don’t see them going against what ministers have said in committee) as well as possible challenge for placing a non-statutory obligation on citizens to allow information for HB/CTB data to be used for other purposes if tghey want to apply, I still think we are on a non-starter here.

    #4701
    seanosul
    Participant

    [quote:b9eb66a632=”JCB”]Although even if we take that that interpretation, recent action by DWP/HMRC against the London Local Authorities Bill has shown that they consider further use of information within an LA a disclosure and as such they managed to remove powers put forward to allow HB/CTB data to be used for CT arrears and sundry debtors.

    That objection was declared in the house and recorded with the relevant clauses being removed so it’s still not clear cut. DCA advice also recognises that HB/CTB data is restricted and cannot be used for general council uses.

    The fair processing statement isn’t therefore a solution, as with about 70% of cases coming through DWP with their statement on our behalf (and I don’t see them going against what ministers have said in committee) as well as possible challenge for placing a non-statutory obligation on citizens to allow information for HB/CTB data to be used for other purposes if tghey want to apply, I still think we are on a non-starter here.[/quote:b9eb66a632]

    Largely because existing legislation already allows it

    [quote:b9eb66a632]4.19 We therefore agree with the concern expressed by the Department for Work and Pensions that the promoters of the Bill have not shown why the existing powers to share information are inadequate or why a power to compel other local authorities to provide information is necessary to allow information to be shared more effectively. We draw this matter to the attention of each House. [/quote:b9eb66a632]

    #4702
    Anonymous
    Guest

    well actually that quote was after the secondary use for other debts had been removed and only related to to an obligation to share for HB/CTB purposes rather than the current permissive version in 122E

    #4703
    seanosul
    Participant

    Which therefore gets us back to the fact that the powers already exist and that they are permissive in nature but will depend on your registration details with the Information Commissioner and the fair use statement you have on your application form. So LAs are in the stupid position of the electoral registration sections refusing to provide information to the benefit service but quite happy to sell that information to 192.com. Or even better instead of one employee of a Revenues and Benefits Service looking at the same database that they already have access to we pay a company (eg magentsolutions locta product) to share our existing databases and provide us with information we already know! The information provided by Locta is lawful but sharing the information within (more often than not) the same service is not?

    Welcome to the information society.

    #4704
    Anonymous
    Guest

    Well the power is permissive for HB/CTB purposes only, not CT. But I agree with the other areas. With no legislartion restricting secondary disclosure or use it should be used throughout the council for delivering all services, and DPA registration and fair processing statements need amending accordingly.

    Although if we wanted to remove all doubt we need something like DWP’s section 3 SSA 1998. Simple then.

    #4705
    seanosul
    Participant

    We have come to an agreement 😀

    Ministers have already argued that we have sufficient powers so we remain in a state of flux. So instead of consulting each other we provide companies with an interface to our databases (with the backing of the DWP and HMRC (the same people who question why assessors want current tax credit info)) and they then sell us this:-

    …participating authorities will be able to search data of open and closed HB/CTB claims nationally with the option of searching DWP benefit claims and HMRC information.

    The information provided includes

    Address, Benefit Type, Method of payment, Total Weekly Benefit Rate, District Office Code, Branch Office Code, Employer, Employer Address, Employer Start Date, Match Type, Non-Dependant details and Date of Death (if deceased).

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