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DWP Searchlight Data

Searchlight - non-dependents listed on Benefit claims

Searchlight

Checking the earnings of non-dependents listed on HB claims

In HB legislation and policy, the earnings of a non-dependent listed on an HB claim have an impact on the amount of HB paid to the primary claimant.

Searchlight is used for all new HB claims with an associated non-dependent, as well as at review points of any HB claims with an associated non-dependent.

To aid the process of checking non-dependent income, LAs record the National Insurance number (NINo) of the non-dependent on the HB claim on their HB IT systems. In order to lawfully benefit from this Searchlight improvement, in relation to HB non-dependents In DWP’s case:

  • “DWP sometimes needs information about people other than the person who has applied for a benefit or service to work out what that person is entitled to. For example, where a person makes a claim for Universal Credit, we need information about other people who live in the same household to work out how much the person will be paid.”

All HB claimants need to inform their non-dependants that their data will also be processed.

Supporting the end-to-end HB debt recovery process

DWP already shares HMRC earnings/pension data with LAs for HB debt recovery purposes. This is done via the HB Debt Service (HBDS). This process works in four stages: 

  1. LAs submit identifying characteristics of a number of their HB debtors to DWP once a month on a specified day. 
  2. DWP aggregates all of the submitted HB debtors from the 360 LAs across the UK and submit these to HMRC. 
  3. HMRC match these to their Real Time Earnings data and employer details dataset, returning the matched data to DWP. 
  4. DWP disaggregate the data into 360 files, one for each LA, and return the matched data to each LA. 

The HMRC earnings/pension data that LAs receive from HMRC for this purpose (via DWP) allows LAs to identify HB debtors that can afford to pay back some of their HB debt, either through a voluntary agreement, or if this agreement cannot be struck, via a Direct Earnings Attachment through the debtors’ employer.

LA staff administering HB debt recovery have access to HMRCs Real Time Earnings data via DWP’s Searchlight: 

  • LAs check if there is PAYE earnings/pensions information in real time on Searchlight before they submit a debt case into the HBDS process. If there are no PAYE earnings/pensions shown on Searchlight, there will no longer be a need to submit that case via the HBDS process. This would reduce the volumes of cases submitted each month by each LA.

Supporting ASCFA

When a citizen requires domiciliary care, or if they go into residential care the council have to carry out an ASCFA to establish if the citizen can afford to pay the fees, or if the LA need to pay them either fully or partially. 

Having access to HMRC income data, particularly from an occupational pension, would help ensure the right decision was made at the first attempt. It would also mean a faster and less stressful journey for the citizen, many of whom are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  

Additional information

If you have any questions, please contact lawelfare.lasupport@dwp.gov.uk