Boosting the signal for a campaign currently being undertaken by Kelly Tonks. If you’ve had in trouble with the “sensitivity” marker when trying to access benefits, please get in contact with her! (kellytonks[at]gmail.com)
I have become aware of a number of instances, including my own, where the safeguards that are being placed to protect Trans folks identities, by the Dept For Work and Pensions, are actually creating major difficulties for Trans individuals.
On applying for pensions or benefits, due to the ‘Sensitivity’ marker that is placed to conceal the individuals Trans history, regular advisors are not able to access claims and individuals records.
Previously, there was at least one individual at each DWP site, including Job Centres, that had the authority to access these ‘Sensitive’ cases. This allowed a relatively seamless service, with maybe a minor delay of a few minutes, to a day or so, while said person was located or an interview slot was found.
Due to, in my view, over-stringent new adherence to Data protection sensibilities, resulting from DWP data security breaches in recent years, this ‘Authority to access’ has been removed from the front line centres/public touch points and has been withdrawn to locations such as Hackney and Newcastle, to name two that I know of. In some cases, such as Hackney, it is impossible to contact them directly and unfortunately their system of ‘Call Backs’ is woefully inadequate.
There is also a difficulty in even recognising this matter at public touch-point level, with staff realising that they are unable to access the individuals details, but having no clue as to why.
These factors are leading to around a 4-6 week delay in benefits such as pensions, jobseekers allowance, income support and so on being paid. There is also an alarming lack of communication from the DWP to local councils with regard to Housing Benefit and Council Tax.
One of our members, upon informing DWP of her name and details change, found that she could no longer access her Jobseekers allowance details through her own Job Centre. This then led to confusion and a cancellation of her JSA payments, cancellation of her Housing benefit and claims for payment of Council Tax. All of these matters had been settled a long time previously and should have continued, unaffected. There was even a stage at which her home was at risk, due to an inability to pay.
This situation is entirely unacceptable. I intend to start to address this problem by making a case, through various agencies and would ask if there is anyone aware of any other such investigation, in order that I am not about to attempt to re-invent the wheel.
I would also ask if you have heard of anyone suffering difficulties of this nature, that you ask if they are able to contact me. All of my contact details are on my facebook page, but the most convenient to me would be by e-mail to: kellytonks[at]gmail.com.
Please can I ask that as much detail is provided, so that I am able to build up a clear picture of the situation and how serious this matter is.
If you are a member of an organisation that has had any of these matters reported to you, could you please let me know what action you took, if any.