The Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS) was introduced in January 2004 (and enhanced in 2005) to link benefit and programme information held by DWP on its customers to employment records from HMRC.
Data-sharing provisions introduced in the Employment Act 2002 opened the way for DWP to receive further data on employment from HMRC and use the information for more purposes. DWP and HMRC have been working together to enable this data sharing to take place and to develop safeguards for the initiative.
The WPLS has long been discussed within government and offers DWP the opportunity to significantly improve both the analytical evidence base and operational effectiveness of the department.
It aims to support the department’s agenda for child poverty, welfare-to-work and retirement income planning policy, and enabling us to find out more about what works and what does not. This will allow us increasingly to target our resources to the appropriate people, in the appropriate way.
The Pensions Act 2004 provides for the Secretary of State’s new functions to promote and facilitate retirement planning.
To enable the Secretary of State to carry out his function of promoting and facilitating retirement planning the department has enhanced the WPLS by the addition of ISA (Individual Savings Account), PEP (Personal Equity Plan), TESSA (Tax-Exempt Special Savings Account), private pension pots or savings accounts information from HMRC for people aged 60 and over.
The department has also enhanced WPLS by the addition of HMRC earnings and Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit data for all people who have been a DWP client.
What is it used for?
A written statement to Parliament in December 2003 stated that the WPLS would be used to perform a range of statistical and research analyses, and some limited operational purposes, to give the department further opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of its businesses. This will, for example:
- provide statistics, management information and research on the success of Jobcentre Plus in helping people into work and keeping them in work
- help to evaluate individual policies and their impact in the short, medium and long term
- determine the family unit for pensioners to establish overall pensioner income from benefits
- aid in the investigation of fraud; and
- provide us with the opportunity to improve how we target clients through marketing initiatives.
A further written statement to Parliament in the autumn of 2005 announced DWP’s intention to enable the WPLS to capitalise on the additional data provided on Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and HMRC to:
- data matching to support Pension Credit take-up campaigns
- better understand people who work beyond state pension age as part of our research into retirement planning and to assist the development of pensions policy
- understand the links between savings held and the benefits system in retirement and how people are using or accumulating savings in retirement
What safeguards will protect the data?
DWP has a legal and ethical responsibility to make sure the WPLS is used appropriately. We have, therefore, developed a set of safeguards around access rights, system monitoring, storage and retention of the information and vetting of new uses.
*[DWP]: Department for Work and Pensions
*[HMRC]: Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs
*[WPLS]: Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study