Disability support group Fightback4Justice posted shocking claims last week on its Facebook page about the DWP’s (Dept of Work and Pensions) treatment of disabled benefit claimants.
The group claimed that:
- the DWP is asking certain companies in the leisure industry to provide CCTV footage of any and all disabled people their cameras capture, with a view to using this to prosecute – or persecute – benefit claimants for supposed fraud, as if a disabled person should never be allowed to enjoy a theme-park visit or a park
- the DWP is using fake profiles to ‘friend’ disabled claimants on Facebook, in order to access their photos and posts, again with a view to using these to allege fraud
Such behaviour would certainly raise serious ethical questions about profiling, about breaches of human rights such as the right to privacy and a family life and about entrapment.
The SKWAWKBOX sent details of the claims to the DWP and asked whether there was any truth in the appalling allegations. The questions we asked were:
- Please confirm whether there’s any truth in the claim that you’ve asked companies to provide footage of disabled people or are in any way using such footage in deciding claims or pursuing claimants
If there is any substance in the claim, please also advise the DWP’s position with regard to the issues this raises in terms of data protection, privacy and profiling, which would be against human rights and equality legislation.
- Please also confirm whether any DWP personnel or other agents are using Facebook as described in the latter part of the screenshot.
The response, when it arrived, said baldly:
No denial of harvesting CCTV footage from leisure firms. No denial of the use of fake profiles to ‘friend’ disabled people on Facebook.
No answer to the ethical and legal issues such behaviour raises – except to hide behind a blanket claim that everything the DWP does is legal.
Fightback4Justice says it has observed an increase in such behaviour and that the DWP has begun to increase staffing for such purposes.
The government has been censured by the United Nations for its treatment of disabled people. It does not seem to intend to improve its conduct.
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