A disabled benefit claimant is set to lodge a complaint with the information commissioner after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) sent him highly confidential medical details belonging to another benefit claimant.
The man was sent the report, written by an assessor working for the US outsourcing giant Maximus, even though he had made it clear that he refuses on principle to share his own medical information with any private company.
David* lost his father as a result of gross medical negligence by a private healthcare company in South Africa, and now will not allow any private organisation to see his medical records.
Maximus has a huge chunk of DWP contracts, despite its “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud in the US.
The stand David has taken has seen him refusing to attend a work capability assessment (WCA) with a Maximus assessor, which meant that he lost his eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits, which he had been claiming for about 10 years.
David, from Maidenhead, Berkshire, said he was astonished to be posted an ESA 85 report written by a Maximus healthcare assessor – and marked “restricted material” – following a WCA carried out into the eligibility of a woman believed to be from the Berkshire area.
Although David knows her name, he does not know her address, and he has not shared any of the details of her report with Disability News Service.
He is now considering lodging a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over DWP’s apparent breach of data protection laws.
But he said he would prefer to take legal action to ensure that the woman was aware that her information had been sent to another claimant.
He is also going to raise the issue with his MP, prime minister Theresa May.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Not only are DWP often totally incompetent, but they are also inconsistent in how they behave towards claimants.
“To send out very personal information about someone to the wrong person in breach of all data protection legislation is totally unacceptable and I hope this will be followed up by the ICO.”
David said he had made it clear to Maximus that he would not share any of his own medical information with them.
He said: “I won’t deal with them. It’s insulting to my dad’s memory. I would rather be on the streets in poverty rather than deal with them.
“I don’t think it is right that anyone should be forced to see a private medical firm. That should be a choice.”
He added: “I have made it plain to Maximus that I will only be assessed by NHS doctors. How they assess me is their problem.”
He said his local council had promised to continue paying his housing benefit, even though he had lost his entitlement to ESA.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Every year we send out millions of letters and fortunately incidents like this are rare.
“We are investigating this particular incident and would like to apologise for any upset it may have caused.”
She said that ESA claimants must participate in a WCA to ensure they are receiving the right benefit.
*Not his real name