HMRC Sharing Child Benefit Data With Councils

In October 2016 it appeared that Bradford council would get details of ALL families receiving child benefit, and that this was already happening in Sheffield.

UPDATED DECEMBER 2ND 2016 WITH ADDITIONAL RESPONSE FROM HMRC (scroll down, see also new blog post December 2nd

In preparation for  a meeting of the Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on Wednesday, 12 October 2016 Bradford council said:

“5.4 We do not have a data sharing agreed with DWP but it has now been agreed with HMRC that we can be involved in their second phases, which began in Sheffield. This means they will share details of families who are in recived [receipt?] of child benefit, allowing us to cross reference that data with the information we hold on CYP in the district. The pilot will run from Jan – June 2017 and is likely our intelligence will increase during that pilot.”  

I put in Freedom of Information requests to Sheffield (where I live), to Bradford, and to HMRC which is the UK’s tax, payments and customs authority.

Bradford said

  1. that the data sharing relates specifically to children who are “missing”
  2. that there is to be a Memorandum of Agreement with HMRC before the pilot begins

(I will be making further enquiries about the Memorandum of Agreement ) 

The council “will only receive data on children and families who are missing, and once CME [Children Missing Education] referrals have been received and local enquiries have been exhausted…

Information will only be requested if a CME referral is received and with all other agencies (eg health and schools) have been exhausted…

Under Section 436A of the Education and Inspections Act 1996 all local authorities have a statutory responsibility to “make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children residing in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. In relation to children, by ‘suitable education’ we mean efficient full-time education suitable to her/his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have.”

We will be working to a Memorandum of Agreement with HMRC which will be in place prior to any data sharing. “

Sheffield said (via private FOI with permission to share):

“We do not receive details of all children receiving child benefit, we only receive address details on those that we send to HMRC for cross checking.

When families leave Sheffield from a Sheffield school and we don’t have a destination we send parents details to HMRC to try and establish their new address.”

HMRC said

All the data that HMRC holds is subject to a statutory duty of  confidentiality, which prohibits its disclosure except where the law  provides otherwise.  Typically for sharing with other parts of Government  a specific legal provision is in place to authorise the disclosure  (subject to various safeguards).  In this particular instance the relevant  legal provision is [2]Paragraph 10A of Schedule 5 Tax Credits Act 2002.   This allows HMRC to share information it holds (for the purposes of its  functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance)  with a local authority in England and Wales for use for the purpose of any  enquiry or investigation under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to
the welfare of a child.

I have now sent a follow-up query to HMRC as follows

Dear HM Revenue and Customs,

I asked here about HMRC’s sharing of Child Benefit data with Bradford and Sheffield council
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/child_benefit_data_sharing_with

I received the following response:

“All the data that HMRC holds is subject to a statutory duty of confidentiality, which prohibits its disclosure except where the law provides otherwise. Typically for sharing with other parts of Government a specific legal provision is in place to authorise the disclosure (subject to various safeguards). In this particular instance the relevant legal provision is [2]Paragraph 10A of Schedule 5 Tax Credits Act 2002. This allows HMRC to share information it holds (for the purposes of its functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance) with a local authority in England and Wales for use for the purpose of any enquiry or investigation under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to the welfare of a child.”

I am now making a separate request to clarify the information already received.

In relation to Schedule 5:

1/ Is there any burden of proof on the body which is asking for HMRC data?
2/ How would a local authority be required to demonstrate it has reasonable cause to suspect a child is likely to suffer significant harm?

References
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2002/21/schedule/5
“10A(1)This paragraph applies to information, other than information relating to a person’s income, which is held for the purposes of functions relating to tax credits, child benefit or guardian’s allowance— …
(2)Information to which this paragraph applies may be supplied to—
(a)a local authority in England and Wales for use for the purpose of any enquiry or investigation under Part 5 of the Children Act 1989 relating to the welfare of a child”

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/47
(1)Where a local authority— …
(b)have reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found, in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm,[my emphasis] the authority shall make, or cause to be made, such enquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.”

On December 2nd I received the following response from HMRC

‘I can confirm that there is no burden of proof, as such, on a local authority in England and Wales in seeking HMRC data. Legislation provides that the local authority should conduct enquiries to ascertain appropriate information in conducting enquiries in respect of child welfare that includes visiting the last known address etc.

On making a request to HMRC, the local authority must confirm that they have undertaken and exhausted all appropriate avenues to identify the required information.

The matter of cause (i.e. decision on vulnerability/risk of harm) is out of the scope of HMRC’s functions, therefore the local authority is not required to demonstrate that to HMRC.

The authority is considered to be a trusted partner and as such accepts that should access to HMRC information be abused, there is potential for HMRC to invoke the criminal sanction for “wrongful disclosure” under section 19(1) of the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005:
“(1) A person commits an offence if he contravenes section 18(1) or 20(9) by
disclosing revenue and customs information relating to a person whose identity –
(a) is specified in the disclosure, or (b) can be deduced from it.”’

Reference: Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005

Wrongful Disclosure
.http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/11/section/19
Confidentiality
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/11/section/18
Public Interest Disclosure
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2005/11/section/20

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One thought on “HMRC Sharing Child Benefit Data With Councils

  1. Pingback: HMRC sharing child benefit data where children may be missing education | edyourself

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