How UK government plans to monitor bank accounts of benefit claimants will affect people with Parkinson’s

In a move designed to combat welfare benefit fraud and error, the UK government wants the power to instruct banks to provide details of their customer's accounts, even where there is no suspicion of fraud. 

New power

In late November 2023, the UK government added an amendment to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill. 

If that bill, including the amendment, becomes law, the government will have the power to instruct banks to provide information on any of their customers who claim any welfare benefits. This includes Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the State Pension.

View the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill on the UK Parliament website.

Why is the power needed?

The government says it needs this power to combat welfare benefit fraud and error. Yet the power would mean it could access claimants’ bank accounts, whether or not fraud is suspected.

It would also allow the government to search the private banking data of people related to welfare claimants, including partners, parents and landlords.

This speculative examination of bank accounts could lead to a fraud investigation, claimants having to pay back an 'overpayment' of benefit, or no action at all. 

However, knowing whether a benefit has been overpaid can be difficult to work out, especially when the cause of the overpayment is not the claimant’s fault.

Who will it affect the most?

The government did not publish its equality impact assessment of the proposed bank data access power, so we asked for the assessment using a freedom of information request. 

In its assessment, the government said that the 2 groups that are most likely to be adversely affected by the proposed new policy are older people and disabled people. Almost all people with Parkinson’s fall into one or both of these groups.

When will this happen?

If the law is passed, the UK government will begin using their new powers on a small scale from 2025 and across the country by 2030.

What we think

Sue Christoforou, Policy Manager at Parkinson’s UK, said: 

"While we agree fraud must be tackled, the proposed new power is a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

"The Information Commissioner’s Office says the proposal lacks the appropriate safeguards. And, in its own equality impact assessment, the government says their analysis of any potential negative effect of the proposed new power is 'limited'.

"Yet, despite the limitations of their analysis, the government acknowledges that older people and disabled people are most likely to be negatively affected by this proposal.

"We believe the proposed power to demand data from bank accounts held by anyone who claims any welfare benefit, as well as those related to them, has not been properly thought through and has great potential to cause distress to many people with Parkinson’s.

"That’s why we, alongside over 40 other organisations, have called on the government to scrap the proposal.

"And we plan to brief peers to vote against the amendment, ahead of its debate in the Lords."