No government algorithm should decide who eats and who goes hungry – we step up challenge to the DWP’s secret benefit probes algorithm

The “fear of the brown envelope”.

That’s what disabled people call the constant anxiety and dread of being targeted by the DWP’s secret benefit investigations algorithm. The manilla letter that drops onto the doormat promising months, maybe even years, of pain, hunger and crisis. 

Rick Burgess of the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People has described how sometimes, when people targeted by the algorithm have been found dead, starved and dehydrated, they have written letters of despair on the same brown envelope that came through their letterbox from the DWP.

We believe this algorithm targets disabled people in a disproportionate, unfair and discriminatory way. It has no place in a decent and honourable society.

That’s why we’re proud to be supporting the GMCDP in a legal challenge against it.

We’ve supported the GMCDP to send a formal pre-action letter to the DWP telling them to come clean about exactly how their algorithm works and provide clear evidence that it does not unfairly discriminate against disabled people. 

The government has a legal obligation to provide answers about how the algorithm works and what safeguards are in place to stop it making discriminatory decisions. 

Unless the DWP responds promptly with the full details, the GMCDP and Foxglove will seek a judicial review. They have 28 days to respond. 

The algorithm, known as the ‘General Matching Service’, is supposed to identify potential cases of benefit fraud. However, it appears to target disabled people disproportionately for traumatic and aggressive investigations.  

These investigations can last for over a year and often begin with essential cash – needed for food, energy and rent – being cut off. 

The investigation process itself is humiliating and dehumanising, with disabled people being forced to justify their needs in exhausting interviews with call centre staff and to repeatedly explain intimate details of their lives to non-disabled people.   

The DWP have stonewalled all requests for information on how the algorithm works and failed to provide any evidence that it is not unlawfully harming disabled people. 

That’s not good enough. We’re not going to let this lie and neither is the GMCDP.

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