Woman forced to change identity because of the DWP's error
An MP and Women’s Aid have severely criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after it emerged it had accidentally revealed a woman’s contact details to her abusive ex-partner.
Hannah Bardell, SNP representative for Livingston, is now calling on the under-fire DWP to ensure its procedures are tightened to avoid a repeat of the potentially dangerous incident.
The situation was so bad the claimant had to change identity, the MP said.
She added: “When you have a constituent sitting in front of you who had to get a new identity, who had to live under police protection because of the seriousness of what she’d been through, and she’s having her details shared by the department that’s supposed to be protecting and helping her, it strikes me that there are flaws in the system.”
Despite acknowledging the instance to be a mistake, Bardell blamed a culture of cuts and austerity which made such instances inevitable.
"When you’re cutting a department to the bone, it’s not going to have the resources to be effective."
When you’re cutting a department to the bone, it’s not going to have the resources to be effective.
She said mistakes like this ended up costing more in the long run because victims may have to change their whole identities again, with the help of police.
Marsha Scott, chief executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said they had heard of other cases as well as this.
"Many women have told us that they are responsible for providing income information for their ex-partners, some of whom have no-contact orders; women are pressured into mediation, which we know is dangerous in the context of domestic abuse; and women are charged a fee when they try to access help in getting child maintenance," she added.
A DWP spokesman said it couldn’t comment on this specific case without knowing more detail.
They said: ‘All our staff receive comprehensive training on how to handle and protect personal information and the department has specific guidance on supporting vulnerable people.
“Information is only ever disclosed to organisations such as the police or social services, if it will help protect the individual concerned.