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Jobcentre Plus: Data Protection

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what data sharing protocols are in place for Jobcentre Plus negotiations with (a) customer advocates and (b) intermediary organisations. (173275)

The Department has guidance for all staff on disclosing information to advocates and intermediaries. We have a duty to ensure that information is not improperly disclosed, but this must not interfere with the customers’ right to use and advocate or intermediary to help them conduct their business.

This guidance also applies to staff in all the Department’s Agencies, including Jobcentre Plus.

For customers with communication difficulties or disabilities, for example, the involvement of an advocate or intermediary not only helps them to access our services, but also helps us to obtain the information we need.

The guidance covers the steps to be taken when deciding whether to disclose information about a specific customer. When contact is made by telephone or in person, and it can be established, using judgment based on the information that the caller already holds about the customers business, and the type of questions they ask, that the caller is an advocate or intermediary who is clearly acting on behalf of the customer, then the customer’s consent can be considered implicit. If our staff have any doubt about the bona fides of the caller, they must ask for written authority from the customer before disclosing any information. Where requests for information are made in writing, a written authority from the customer is required.

Staff are told never to disclose information that the customer’s advocate would reasonably be expected to know, such as addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, names of household members and bank account details.

The full guidance can be accessed on the Department’s website at:

www.dwp.gov.uk/advisers/repsguide.pdf