Opinion

Why DWP snooping on benefit claimants' bank accounts will only whip up hatred of disabled people 

Plans to allow the DWP to check claimants' account details will create further division between hardworking taxpayers and "work-shy benefit shirkers"

dwp protest

Disabled people are left without support because of failures of the benefits system. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) were drawing up plans that would allow them to check the bank accounts of those on out-of-work benefits, according to a news leak. Why? I hear you ask, well it’s part of the government’s “war on workshy benefits claimants”, which is aiming to force around 2.5m sick and disabled people into work. This is despite the fact they’ve been declared unfit for work. 

Under a new law, which The Telegraph reports is expected to be announced in the chancellor’s autumn statement next week, benefit claimants could have their bank accounts checked every month to make sure they’re not “lying” about savings. Apparently, it could save the government £500 million in the first five years.

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

Currently, if the DWP suspects someone of fraud they have to individually request their details from their bank. Under the new plans, banks will be forced to run monthly or even weekly checks to see if any “red flags” are picked up. This would include having more than £16,000 in savings (which is the cap for those on benefits) or if the account regularly transfers money overseas.

I don’t know about you but that sounds more like Tory party members and their rich mates than people who are struggling to pay their bills. 

Now of course this sounds dire and would put many disabled people in danger, but in my opinion, it’s not actually going to happen. The sheer amount it would cost in both resources and manpower is completely unviable. But that’s not the point, it’s about furthering the “cracking down on fraudsters” vile agenda. 

For disabled people this will lead to more fear and mean we are less likely to speak up about how inhumane this is. More importantly to the Tories though, it will create further division between hardworking taxpayers and “work-shy benefit shirkers” and allow the public to further be awful about disabled and unemployed people. 

According to the Trussel Trust 69% of people referred to their food banks network are disabled. This is three times the rate of non-disabled people. Meanwhile, 62% of disabled people referred to Trussell Trust food banks are also not receiving any disability benefits.

I regularly see friends who have had to crowdfund in order to get the equipment they vitally need such as power wheelchairs then panic about how they’re going to receive the money – because it could take their savings over 16k. I know people who withdraw all of their benefits as soon as they get it, because it’s easier to budget if the cash is in front of you.

These aren’t people who are fiddling the system, they’re people who are struggling to survive under a system that punishes them for not contributing enough to society and judges whether they deserve to live. 

“Every pound stolen by fraudsters could be spent on our public services or on those most in need.” a source told The Telegraph. OK, cool, what about the £42bn a year in unpaid tax, what are we doing to crack down on that? 

“Mel [Stride, work and pensions minister] sees it as profoundly wrong that benefit cheats aren’t playing by the rules and is determined to bring fairness for the taxpayer,” the source continued, while casually forgetting that the Big Issue revealed the DWP had spent millions trying to ensure people didn’t get benefits in the first place.

The government is working hard to turn the public against disabled people who can’t work, be it through branding us all workshy scroungers or by the ridiculous minster for disabled people Tom Pursglove running around on dawn benefits raids in his stab vest. The message is clear, don’t pay attention to our wrongdoings, look at those thieving disabled people – but we can’t allow this to fester.

What this and all other DWP policies hinge on is the Tories staying in power – and that’s why we need to ensure that they’re voted out in the next election. Before even more disabled people die under this cruel government. 

Rachel Charlton-Dailey is an award-winning disability rights journalist, editor author, speaker and activist.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed
Tom Clark

Poverty prevention is our best hope. Here's some tangible ways to keep people warm, dry and fed

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?
Paul McNamee

If Rishi Sunak is so keen on our national identity, why is this British icon up for sale?

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy
Lucy Sweet

Stacey Solomon is not afraid of having a go. She even makes DIY look easy

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 
Naomi Pohl

How the Northern Ballet's empty orchestra pit perfectly sums up UK's arts crisis 

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know