After enduring years of delays and humiliating experiences at her local Job Centre, C is challenging the system. She objects to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) retaining her previous name and gender and the fact that she has a gender recognition certificate on its computer systems. She believes that it is not necessary for the DWP to retain the information indefinitely and that it is not necessary for the information to be viewable at the Job Centre in connection with the day to day processing of her Jobseeker’s Allowance claim.
The DWP says it needs to keep the information and that it would be too expensive to amend its computer systems to hide the gender history of its trans customers. The DWP says that the information is protected by its Special Customer Records (SCRs) scheme, which is applied to the computer accounts of all trans people. Where an SCR marker is applied to a customer’s account, access to that account is restricted to those with authorisation from a DWP manager. However, once a DWP employee has authorisation, they can view the full gender history of the customer, even though it is irrelevant to the administration of their benefits.
C has encountered the following problems due to the SCR system:
- She is treated differently to other customers, e.g. her computer account cannot be accessed during her visits to the Job Centre and she has to sign on manually.
- Her benefits payments have been delayed because of processing delays.
- It is difficult to obtain assistance by telephone due to delays in obtaining managerial authorisation to access her account.
- Job Centre employees have sometimes referred to her gender history in the presence of other staff and customers and she has heard employees making derogatory comments about her gender history.
C’s experience is some Job Centre employees assume a person is trans if their account has an SCR marker, so SCR markers do not protect privacy at all – in fact they do the opposite.
She strongly objects to her sensitive and confidential information being known to people with whom she has not chosen to share it. She rightly sees this as an affront to her dignity.
C believes that there must be a better solution for her – and for other trans benefits claimants – and she is hoping to achieve this by bringing her case to court. We understand that others have had similar problems with the DWP. You might be one of them. If so, C needs your help.
How you can help:
C’s legal team is gathering evidence from others who have experienced problems (e.g. being ‘outed’ as trans, name calling, payment delays) arising from the fact that their records are marked as SCRs.
Due to the court timetable they need to hear from you by 10 July 2013.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to the following questions:
1. Do you have a GRC?
If so, when did you receive it?
2. Do you currently claim benefits?
If so, what benefits do you claim and for how long have you claimed them?
3. Do you attend a local Job Centre for regular appointments?
If so, does your DWP account have an SCR marker?
If not, why not?
4. What particular problems have you experienced at the Job Centre or when trying to access the DWP by telephone?
Please provide examples.
5. Would you be willing to make a witness statement to submit to the court?
Please note that you would not need to give evidence in person.
6. What are your contact details?
Please provide your name, email address and telephone number.
Please email your answers to email@example.com or post them to the following address:
Bindmans LLP, 236 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8HQ