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Departmental Database

Volume 455: debated on Monday 8 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to ensure that his Department's database contains benefit claimants' full and correct addresses. (107254)

The Department has a wide range of processes in place to ensure that it holds benefit claimants' full and correct addresses.

At the outset of a claim for benefit steps are taken to confirm that the address provided exists and is correct, by matching the details provided with historical data held within the Department. Decision notices issued when entitlement is established, and annual award notices issued when benefit rates change include written reminders of the need for customers to notify changes of address. In addition to this when it is known that an address is out of date and the customer is in receipt of benefit, steps are taken to obtain the correct address details.

If an address could not be traced banks would be contacted to suspend payments and data matching takes place with organisations such as Royal Mail re-direct. Change of address details notified to one part of the Department are shared with other agencies within the Department through cross-benefit computer systems. These systems also hold addresses from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), where many customers in receipt of child benefit, child tax credits and new tax credits are also customers of this Department.

The Department has a dedicated team, who are responsible for the quality and integrity of personal details data held within the Customer Databases Programme, and is constantly seeking new ways of maintaining all personal data, including up to date addresses. In order to maintain correct address details and up to date postcodes, the Post Office Address File is run against the DWP Customer Databases on a quarterly basis.

Work is currently under way with HMRC on a project set up to examine taxpayer's out of date address data, which is then checked through Post Office Redirect and credit reference data, with any new addresses found notified from HMRC to DWP. There are safeguards in place to ensure that correct addresses for customers in receipt of benefit are not overwritten by this data without confirmation that the individual has moved.