Worthing couple sent benefit claimant’s private details in post

Emma with her claim form letter and the one she was sent in error
Emma with her claim form letter and the one she was sent in error
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A WEST Worthing couple have spoken of their concern after they received another person’s private details in a benefits letter sent to them.

Emma Davies, from Downview Road, received a woman’s housing and council tax benefit form, along with her own, in a letter sent to her by Worthing Borough Council.

The letter contained the other claimant’s name and address, details of how much she would receive in benefits and several digits from her sort code and account number.

Emma, 33, received the letter last Saturday after she notified the Department of Work and Pensions of her increased number of working hours, prompting the council to suspend her housing and council tax benefit while the amount she earned was looked into.

Emma said: “It’s not very nice. It’s me whose got this form and I’m not going to do anything with it, but this contains a lot of personal information. I wouldn’t like the idea of someone having something like this of mine.”

Emma and husband Luke were previously landlords of The Cavendish Hotel, in Marine Parade, until it closed in October.

Since then, Luke has been looking for work while Emma has been working in the kitchen of Durrington First and Middle School.

The extra hours worked by Emma pushed the couple over a particular threshold of earnings and Luke’s Job Seeker’s Allowance claim was ended. Worthing Borough Council has now also suspended the couple’s council tax and housing benefit claim while it looks into how much the couple earns, and the amount of money the couple should receive is recalculated.

The couple contacted the council to let them know of the error but were less than impressed with the response they received.

Luke, 32, said: “Their reaction was along the lines that it’s not acceptable but mistakes happen.

“There was no real apology from anyone about what had happened.”

Emma and Luke were told the other benefit claimant had been notified of the mistake and would be sent another letter.

But the couple said they were concerned someone else might have their details.

Paul Tonking, benefits and revenue manager for Worthing Borough Council, said he would be sending a letter to apologise to Mr and Mrs Davies.

He added: “Since only one copy of each letter is produced, Mr and Mrs Davies’ most recent award letters appear to have been sent to them and nobody else. Every care is taken to minimise the risk of documents not being sent to the correct customer, and this is the first instance for some considerable time that I am aware of whereby this situation has arisen. “All benefits staff are fully aware of the requirements of the Data Protection Act and significant efforts are made to ensure that personal information is not disclosed to third parties.

“Full details of the customer’s bank sort code and account number were not included in the letter – two of the six sort code digits and four of the eight account number digits are masked.”