With the tabloid media frenzy on cheating benefit claimants reaching new heights and people believing that some disabled people are fraudsters, the government seems to have found a new way to embarrass people on benefit.
The forthcoming abolition of car tax discs from October means that the only way to check whether a vehicle is taxed is to check free on line at the Driver Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). All anybody needs is the vehicle registration and the make of car – you don’t even need to know the model.
But the DVLA has decided to introduce a new way of reporting on line who doesn’t have to pay car tax by creating a class of taxation called disabled.revealing whether the person who drives it is disabled rather than leaving it blank as previously.
As I reported in Tribune under the new system, people can find out on line that they pay no car tax, which is only available to people claiming higher levels of benefit. This is through mobility benefit included in the Disability Living Allowance or the new personal Independence payment system, and for war pensioners who have mobility supplements. The site also says whether they are disabled or not.
The changes highlighted on a professionally run benefits and advice website have provoked a storm of protest from disabled people who see it as a breach of privacy and revealing confidential information.
The website says: “The issue here appears to be one of data protection. The information that DVLA are making available is not about the vehicle itself. Instead they are publishing personal information about the benefits received by the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.”
One disabled person, Robert Adam commented: “There are malicious gits out there who resent people getting benefits who are 100 per cent entitled to them. If someone is accused of fraudulently obtaining the Disability Living Allowance, they are immediately pulled in for the new PIP assessment. This DVLA system stating “Taxation class disabled” is not information about the vehicle. It is information about the registered keeper being disabled and entitled to free road tax.”
The DVLA say this is not their intention. They claim their aim is to help people when the numerous parking companies are chasing up people for unpaid parking fines and private parking charges who will be saved from being pursued when they see their entry.
However given the DVLA is also making over £20m by handing over the names and addresses of people driving or keeping the cars to private enforcement companies at a cost of £2.50 a time they are not always that scrupulous. After all many of the parking charges sought by private companies are not enforceable any way as this site reveals and this story on BBC News also illustrates.
It strikes me as just another way of ratcheting up fear of suspected benefit fraud while at the same time making money from some unscrupulous parking cowboys.