Human rights concern over income support

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St Helier resident Mick Green is contemplating making an application to the courts.

However, before doing so he will ask both the Employment and Social Security and Housing departments for details of the human rights audit conducted prior to the law’s submission to the States.

Mr Green believes the information being asked for is a breach of human rights and should be challenged.

He is asking his lawyer for advice.

Earlier this monthnew rules came into force to allow Human Rights Law cases to be heard in the Jersey courts.

However, Employment Minister Paul Routier has written to Mr Green to say the Law Officers have been involved with developing the Income Support Law to ensure it complies fully with human rights requirements.

He also told Mr Green the same was true for the Data Protection Office in respect of that legislation.

However, data protection registrar Emma Martins said they were only involved with the wording of the declaration towards the end of the form.

Mrs Martins has actually expressed concern that it might be too easy for States departments to demand personal information from people.

She said departments were allowed to override the requirements of the Data Protection Law if they were collating information for the purpose of complying with a law passed by the States.

‘This is because the Data Protection Law says if another piece of legislation requires the collection or use of personal data, then that is acceptable,’ she said.

However, in her view the level of seniority for decision making in respect of such requirements was too low.

‘The Income Support Law is an excellent example of this.

In effect, the law allows for collection of a huge amount of personal and sensitive data about all claimants, not in the primary law, but in regulations,’ she said.

Where data was collected to comply with, or administer, a piece of law, then, she said, there was not a great deal her office could do to stand in its way.

She said her office was concerned with the quantity of information requested and more concerned with the increasing public unease expressed in relation to the scheme.

Mrs Martins said her department had received a number of complaints about the income support forms, one of which came from Mr Green.

He said the demands set out in the 27-page document ‘are without doubt an abuse of privilege’.

‘It is clear the nature of the document is designed to extract the maximum amount of private and confidential information from a section of the population whose financial circumstances make it imperative they apply for government financial support or face poverty,’ he said.

And because it is directed at a limited section of society, Mr Green argued that it was discriminatory, as the population as a whole was not required to produce the same private and confidential information.

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