Guidance

Universal Credit consent and disclosure of information

How Universal Credit claimants can give consent for their information to be shared with another person or organisation to help them deal with their claim.

This guide also includes information about how someone can act as an appointee for a Universal Credit claimant or obtain a lasting power of attorney.

You can ask another person or organisation to deal with your claim if you feel unable to:

  • find the information you need
  • understand things about your claim

You can do this at any point during your claim.

You must give your permission to allow another person or organisation to:

  • act for you
  • have access to relevant information about you

This permission is called explicit consent.

We call someone who deals with information on your behalf a ‘representative’. A representative is different to an appointee – it is not a legally based appointment.

A representative can be any person or organisation acting on your behalf or making enquiries for you. You must provide explicit consent before information can be disclosed to a representative.

Explicit consent can be provided by you in writing, on the telephone or face-to-face. You can do this at any time during your Universal Credit claim.

You must:

  • give consent for your personal information to be shared with the representative
  • outline what information you want to be disclosed
  • explain why the information is needed
  • explain the representative’s relationship to you where the representative is your family member or friend
  • give the name of the representative and the organisation, including the branch where applicable. If you cannot provide the name of the representative, you need to be as specific as possible, for example you should provide the representative’s job role or team name within the organisation

Explicit consent does not last forever, it usually lasts until either the specific request is completed or the end of the assessment period, after the one in which the consent was given.

An assessment period is the monthly period in which your Universal Credit is calculated and paid.

You can withdraw the consent for a representative at any time:

  • by making an entry on your online journal
  • in person, at an appointment in the jobcentre

Once you have given explicit consent, the representative will need to confirm the following details to receive relevant information about you and your Universal Credit claim:

  • your full name
  • your address or date of birth
  • what information you have agreed to share
  • the purpose for the information being shared
  • their name or the organisation they belong to (where this applies)

If there is any doubt as to the identity of the representative making the request, no information will be disclosed.

Information that will never be disclosed by DWP

The following information will never be given to a representative, even if you have given explicit consent:

  • your address
  • your date of birth
  • your National Insurance number
  • your bank details (sort code, account number, account holder name)
  • your telephone numbers
  • names of your household members
  • names of your employers or former employers

Disclosure of information to social landlords

Social landlords are providers of social housing. These are usually councils or ‘not for profit’ housing associations.

If you’re unable to manage your money or have fallen into rent arrears, you can arrange for your housing costs to be paid directly to your landlord. In Universal Credit this is called an ‘alternative payment arrangement’.

The following information can be shared with social landlords without needing to give explicit consent:

  • the claimant’s alternative payment arrangement information
  • any relevant criminal history that you may have, for example anti-social behaviour or other behaviour adversely affecting the local area

Social landlords will not be entitled to receive any personal data about you. All requests for information will be considered under the Data Protection Act.

Social landlords may receive the following information:

  • the start date of your housing payments being paid to the landlord
  • when the landlord can expect to receive the first payment
  • the amount of the next payment of the Universal Credit housing payment towards your rent
  • if there have been any changes to the amount of housing costs to be paid (the reason for the changes will not be provided or discussed)

Disclosure of information to private landlords

Private landlords are landlords who usually own the property they are renting out.

Private landlords can be:

  • a company that owns a lot of properties
  • a person or family that owns one or more properties

Private landlords can ask for their tenant’s Universal Credit housing costs to be paid directly to them without the need for explicit consent.

You will be informed that the private landlord has requested that the Universal Credit housing costs be paid directly to them.

If you are happy for your Universal Credit housing costs to be paid directly to the landlord, you do not need to reply to give your consent.

The Universal Credit housing costs will then automatically be paid to the landlord each month. If you do not want the rent to be paid directly to the landlord, you can dispute this.

You will need to provide evidence that you are not in rent arrears in order to dispute the alternative payment arrangement.

Once the direct payment to the private landlord (the alternative payment arrangement) has been set up, the following information can be disclosed to the landlord:

  • the start date of your housing payments being paid to the landlord
  • when the landlord can expect to receive the first payment
  • the amount of the next payment of your Universal Credit housing costs
  • if there have been any changes to the Universal Credit housing costs (the reason for the changes will not be provided or discussed)

A private landlord can act as a representative for a claimant but will always need your explicit consent to do so, unless it is for the specific purpose of requesting an alternative payment arrangement.

There are circumstances when DWP can share your information without explicit consent. These are:

  • court orders
  • legal gateways
  • MPs engaging with Universal Credit on their constituent’s behalf
  • public interest

Court orders

If a court order is in place, DWP does not need to get your consent to disclose the information requested.

There is law which allows your personal information to be shared with an organisation if they are acting in a welfare capacity.

For example, DWP can share a claimant’s information with a local authority (and its welfare rights representative) if they are helping the claimant with Personal Budgeting Support and Universal Support.

MPs engaging with Universal Credit on their constituent’s behalf

Any correspondence, (letter, email or phone enquiries) relating to Universal Credit will be answered directly to the MP without the need for your consent. However, it is common practice for MPs to include explicit consent from you when contacting the department in writing.

Public interest

Where it is in the best interests of the public, disclosure can be made without your consent. For example, claimants with complex needs. These requests for disclosure will usually come from the police or social services.

Appointees

Another person or organisation can apply for the right to deal with the Universal Credit claim of someone who can’t manage their own affairs because, for example, they may be mentally incapable or severely disabled.

Unlike a representative this is a legally based appointment.

An appointee can be:

  • an individual, such as a friend or relative – these are known as individual appointees
  • an organisation or representative of an organisation, such as a solicitor or local council – these are known as corporate appointees

Some Universal Credits claimants may prefer to have corporate appointees, instead of an individual appointee. These are usually charities or local authorities. This means that any staff member from that organisation can act on your behalf.

An appointee’s responsibilities

As an appointee you act for the claimant for all benefit purposes.

If you are appointed to make the claim for Universal Credit, you then become legally empowered to act on behalf of the claimant and are responsible for maintaining the claim on their behalf.

You will be expected to answer security questions to verify your identity, but explicit consent to disclose information is not required (see the Consent and representatives section on this page).

You must:

  • tell DWP about any changes which may affect how much Universal Credit the claimant gets
  • spend the Universal Credit payment (which is paid directly to you) in the claimant’s best interests
  • tell DWP if you no longer need to be the appointee, for example if the claimant can now manage their own affairs
  • tell DWP about any changes in your own circumstances which may affect your ability to be the appointee

If Universal Credit is overpaid because, for example, you didn’t tell us about changes in the claimant’s circumstances, you could be held responsible.

Apply to become a Universal Credit appointee

To speak to someone about becoming an appointee please call the Universal Credit helpline.

Universal Credit helpline

Telephone: 0800 328 5644
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Find out about call charges

There’s also information about becoming an appointee for someone on benefits other than Universal Credit.

Power of attorney

A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf.

This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and can’t make your own decisions (perhaps because you ‘lack mental capacity’).

You must be aged 18 or over and have mental capacity (the ability to make your own decisions) when you make your LPA.

Attorneys don’t need to live in the UK or be a British citizen. There are 2 types of LPA:

  • health and welfare
  • property and financial affairs

You can choose to make one type or both.

There’s a different process in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

To make a lasting power of attorney:

  1. choose your attorney (you can have more than one)
  2. fill in the forms to appoint them as your attorney
  3. register your LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (this can take up to 10 weeks)

It costs £82 to register an LPA unless you get a reduction or exemption.

You can cancel your LPA if you no longer need it or want to make a new one.

Health and welfare lasting power of attorney

You can use a health and welfare LPA to give an attorney the power to make decisions about things like:

  • your daily routine, for example washing, dressing, eating
  • medical care
  • moving into a care home
  • life-sustaining treatment

It can only be used when you’re unable to make your own decisions.

Property and financial affairs lasting power of attorney

You can use a property and financial affairs LPA to give an attorney the power to make decisions about money and property for you, for example:

  • managing a bank or building society account
  • paying bills
  • collecting benefits or a pension
  • selling your home

It can be used as soon as it’s registered, with your permission.

Help deciding if you should make a lasting power of attorney

Contact the Office of the Public Guardian if you need help.

Office of the Public Guardian

Email: customerservices@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: 0300 456 0300
Textphone: 0115 934 2778
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9am to 5pm
Wednesday, 10am to 5pm

Find out about call charges.

Published 5 March 2018