The DWP has been colluding with Sainsbury’s to spy on disabled people

The DWP logo and the Sainsburys logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been colluding with Sainsbury’s to spy on welfare claimants and disabled people.

The DWP: in bed with Sainsbury’s?

In its “CCTV use & requests” privacy policy, Sainsbury’s states:

Sainsburys privacy policy

Start your day with The Canary News Digest

Fresh and fearless; get excellent independent journalism from The Canary, delivered straight to your inbox every morning.




Twitter user ‘NoDPI sigma’ spotted the clause:

They believe that this clause is new:

Tesco has a similar policy, but doesn’t specify the DWP:

Tesco privacy policyAs does Asda:

Asda privacy policy

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson told The Canary:

As will be the case with other businesses and public organisations, from time to time we will receive requests to share CCTV with the police or regulatory authorities. We will consider each request on its own legal merits and only share where appropriate.

The DWP says…

A DWP spokesperson told The Canary:

Surveillance helps us to prevent and detect crime, and is only used in strict accordance with the law. The DWP uncovers thousands of benefit fraud cases every year and recovered a record £1.1bn in overpaid benefits last year.

Harvesting data

The DWP harvesting data when it investigates suspected benefit fraud is nothing new. As it stated in reply to a Freedom of Information request (FOI):

Fraud investigators can where appropriate access publicly available information, such as on Facebook, Twitter etc., to gather evidence. Investigators cannot create fake social media profiles to engage with suspects in order to obtain evidence about that individual and again these activities are carefully managed and controlled.

Fraud investigators can request CCTV footage as part of a specific investigation or operation under and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the CCTV Code of Practice 2008, issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

As SKWAWKBOX reported, there has been anecdotal evidence that the DWP has been asking leisure companies, like theme parks, for CCTV footage of claimants using their facilities. But moreover, this ‘big brother’ attitude to welfare claimants, and specifically disabled people, has been developing for years.

Disabled people’s ‘hostile environment’

Last year, the UN accused successive Conservative-led governments of having “some responsibility” for society seeing disabled people as “parasites, living on social benefits… and [living on] the taxes of other people”. It previously said in 2016 that successive governments had created a public perception where disabled people:

have been… negatively portrayed as being dependent or making a living out of benefits; committing fraud as benefit claimants; being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who are paying ‘money for nothing’.

The evidence validates the UN’s claims. As the Guardian reported, between 2010 and 2015 the public reported over 1.6m cases of alleged benefit fraud to the DWP. But of these, 85% were false. Also, as The Canary previously reported, actual benefit fraud is relatively rare – totalling 1.1% of the tax credits bill. For the DWP, benefit fraud and error accounted for 1.9% of its total bill.

Meanwhile, according to a group of experts, disability hate crime rose by 213% under the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition government. This has all happened while the public has been fed a TV diet of ‘poverty porn‘ on shows like The Great British Benefits Handout.

The UK has a ‘hostile environment’ where welfare claimants and disabled people live under a cloud of suspicion and unworthiness. It’s this which makes Sainsbury’s colluding with the DWP all the more concerning. If we have reached the point where welfare recipients can’t even do their shopping without fear of being ‘shopped’ to the DWP, then the system is even more broken than we thought.

Get Involved! 

– If you think the DWP has discriminated against you, contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service on 0808 800 0082.

– Support DPAC fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via UK Government – Wikimedia / Elliott Brown – Flickr

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support

Comments are closed