Proof of Benefits request at local clacton leisure centre

The request was successful.

Dear Tendring District Council,

1) Can you please let me know why you need to see my Social security number and the amount of benefit income in order for me to swim at the clacton leisure centre each year when its already on your records?

2) do all the members on benefit have to show proof of income and social security number for them to swim every year ?

3) is my personal information available to any receptionist or employee at any of Tendring leisure centers if when checking my information my income amount and SS # appears appears to them on the screen?

4) Do you have my benefit information already on your records for income/council tax information. if so why don't you use that information to confirm to the leisure centre my benefits statues?

5) Who is able see my information (weekly income and SS#) at Tendring leisure centres?

6) why after almost a decade of just showing proof of befits to the receptionist do you need to now make a copy of the information I show them, sent to me by the DWP?

7) can you please let me know who is responsible for this change in policy and when it was introduced and why it was introduced?

8) why cant you use the information already on your benefit system to confirm my statues each year to the leisure centres in Tendring when proof of my benefits is required?

Yours faithfully,

William Hones

Corporate Information Manager, Tendring District Council

Dear Mr Hones,

Thank you for your request for information. I can confirm that your enquiry is receiving attention.

In accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 you should receive a comprehensive reply to your request within 20 working days from receipt of your enquiry.

During the pandemic please be aware that our limited resources may have been diverted away from compliance or information governance work in order to deal with emerging high priority activities. Therefore we thank you for your understanding and assure you that we will continue to respond to information requests as quickly as we are able. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has also published information on their website www.ico.org.uk.

The Council’s current activities and up to date changes to our service delivery can be found on our website at https://www.tendringdc.gov.uk/coronavirus

In certain circumstances, a fee may be payable for determining, locating, retrieving and extracting information and/or the cost for disbursements such as photocopying and postage. If this applies, a Fees Notice will be issued to you with details of any costs involved in advance and you will be required to pay this before I can proceed to deal with your request.

Further information about your rights is also available from the Information Commissioner at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5AF Telephone: 0303 123 1113, www.ico.gov.uk.

Kind regards,

Charlene Haynes
On behalf of Corporate Information Manager
Corporate Services
Tendring District Council

Phone: 01255 686063
E-mail: [Tendring District Council request email]
www.tendringdc.gov.uk
Tendring District Council, Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex CO15 1SE

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Corporate Information Manager, Tendring District Council

Dear Mr Hones,

Further to your request for information regarding Proof of Benefits request at leisure centres, which was received on 07/05/21, please see below the answers to your enquiry.

1) Can you please let me know why you need to see my Social security number and the amount of benefit income in order for me to swim at the Clacton Leisure Centre each year when its already on your records?

- When joining the Council's leisure facilities, customers are required to prove their eligibility of benefit entitlement when applying for any concessionary membership. They are also required to provide this on a twelve-month basis (unless they renew their memberships before this due date). Additionally, this supports proof as a Tendring district resident.

The Council's leisure centres only require a letter of entitlement, including address, date of letter, name and eligibility of means tested benefit. They would not require any further additional details such as social security number and amount of benefit income.

It is important to note that this process is evident across any membership where a concessionary price is applied. For example, eligibility would be required for students whether at university or college, a letter from their place of study would be required. Those applying for a corporate membership would be required to evidence their job role and place of work. This process is to support an audit of those applying for such concessionary memberships and our staff/officers approving them. This in turn, ensures customers are on the correct price level associated to activities within our facilities.

2) Do all the members on benefit have to show proof of income and social security number for them to swim every year?

All customers are required to provide eligibility of benefit on a 12 month basis from point of taking out a membership with the Council's leisure centres (unless they renew their memberships before this due date). This supports proof as a Tendring district resident and eligibility of benefit still remains.

3) Is my personal information available to any receptionist or employee at any of Tendring leisure centres if when checking my information my income amount and SS # appears to them on the screen?

Documents are scanned for those customers in receipt of benefit to support their entitlement. Access to upload and view these documents is restricted to membership and management team only. The system is solely used by TDC Leisure Centre Staff and those who have access as part of their job role – receptionists, membership team, IT and management - access level is granted in accordance of their role. Viewing such documents is restricted by access level to the membership and management team in order to complete relevant checks for customer’s memberships along with processing new updated documents every 12 months.

These permissions are set through their own individual logins to access the system. This ensures staff only complete tasks and access areas within the system relevant to their job role.

4) Do you have my benefit information already on your records for income/council tax information. if so why don't you use that information to confirm to the leisure centre my benefits statues?

TDC leisure centres do not have access to the public's benefit details. This is because the leisure centres do not have a legal gateway to see all the data held in the Revenues and Benefits processing system, and as such this information is not shared across services. Therefore, to support TDC leisure facilities providing the reduced rate for those entitled, they carry out the process of documenting such entitlement.

5) Who is able see my information (weekly income and SS#) at Tendring leisure centres?

As per answer 3. TDC Leisure Centre Staff only have access to areas within the system relevant to their job role. Therefore, only membership and management teams have access to view documents saved to a customer’s account. This is for auditing purposes and for 12 month renewals where an up to date letter is provided to prove entitlement remains.

As previously mentioned, with only an ‘entitlement letter’ required as proof of eligibility, they do not require information around any benefit amounts paid to the customer.

6) Why after almost a decade of just showing proof of befits to the receptionist do you need to now make a copy of the information I show them, sent to me by the DWP?

The Council's leisure centres have recently upgraded systems through the first lockdown and are now able to scan and document those customers in receipt of benefit to support their entitlement. The process involves scanning the document and loading this onto the relevant customer's account. Access to upload and view these documents is restricted to membership and management team only as previously above.

With this in mind, it's essential to note historically, the leisure centre systems were not able to hold nor restrict access; therefore, they didn't obtain and retain entitlement documentation. This updated process allows the leisure centres to audit such memberships and provides clarification on those entitled. It allows for processing direct debits on a monthly basis to ensure those that are entitled are paying the correct amount in accordance with the eligibility received.

7) Can you please let me know who is responsible for this change in policy and when it was introduced and why it was introduced?

This was introduced following a system upgrade through lockdown and increased functionality within the new system. From June 2020 the leisure centres utilised the system for direct debit and 6 monthly memberships to audit those customers for eligibility. Additionally, this supported customer requests that wanted to make changes to their memberships and/or provide their proof as the centres were unable to process such request due to the system being frozen. This ensures customers are entitled as a TDC resident, protecting our officers in selling concessionary memberships and it also protects the public purse.

More recently, upon review with reopening in April 2021, and amends to Pay as you Go memberships, the leisure centres introduced the same process across all concessionary memberships. It again protects TDC officers in selling concessionary memberships and provides an effective audit trail from a customer and staff perspective.

8) Why can’t you use the information already on your benefit system to confirm my statues each year to the leisure centres in Tendring when proof of my benefits is required?

As mentioned in question 4, TDC leisure centres do not have access to the public's benefit details. This is because the leisure centres do not have a legal gateway to see all the data held in the Revenues and Benefits processing system, and as such this information is not shared across services.

Therefore, leisure centres would not be able to confirm eligibility each year via the path you have suggested and as such every 12 months require an up to date entitlement letter from customers to ensure entitlement/eligibility remains.

I hope this information is of assistance to you.

Right to Internal Review:
If you are dissatisfied with your FOI response or with the way your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act, you have the right to ask for your request to be independently reviewed. You should set out your representations in writing explaining why you are dissatisfied with this response or the way your request has been handled and send to [email address]. Alternatively, you can post a request for an internal review to Mrs L Trembath, Corporate Services, Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex CO15 1SE. The review will be conducted in accordance with the Council’s internal review procedure. Further details of this procedure can be obtained from all Council offices or from our website (www.tendringdc.gov.uk). You will be notified of the outcome of the review as soon as possible and in any event within 20 working days from receipt of your representations.

Appeal:
If you should still remain dissatisfied following the outcome of the review, you may apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision by writing to:

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5AF
Telephone: 0303 123 1113, www.ico.gov.uk.

The Council’s current activities and up to date changes to our service delivery can be found on our website at https://www.tendringdc.gov.uk/coronavirus

During the pandemic please be advised that our limited resources may have been diverted away from compliance or information governance work in order to deal with emerging high priority activities. Therefore we thank you for your understanding and assure you that we will continue to respond to information requests as quickly as we are able. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has also published information on their website www.ico.org.uk.

Further information about your rights is also available from the Information Commissioner at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow SK9 5AF Telephone: 0303 123 1113, www.ico.gov.uk .

Kind regards,

Charlene Haynes
On behalf of Corporate Information Manager
Corporate Services
Tendring District Council

Phone: 01255 686063
E-mail: [Tendring District Council request email]
www.tendringdc.gov.uk
Tendring District Council, Town Hall, Station Road, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex CO15 1SE

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