The UK government is currently considering expanding a trial that was started in May 2016 by the Department for Work and Pensions, to make social welfare payments using distributed ledger technology (DLT) through a platform by GovCoin Limited, now called DISC Holdings Limited. Claimants use an app which offers them a secure and effective way to receive, spend, and record benefit payments for financial management purposes.
After the trial started, issues arose with how claimant data would be handled, sparking controversy among members of Parliament. However, in an effort to ease concerns, Conservative peer Lord Henley, the parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DWP, recently stated that the government will not have access to claimant data and will not dictate where benefits are spent.
“[We] will have no access to it in any further trials we look at. We want to continue to keep it like that,” Lord Henley said. “Obviously, information will be [available] to Disc—which is GovCoin, referred to in the Question—but that will be protected by data protection principles.”
According to Henley, although claimants who participated in the limited trial found the product “very useful,” the government “[has] not yet decided to move on to a fuller and larger trial” and will not move onto the next step in the process until “appropriate checks and balances” are in effect.
Parliamentarian Chris Holmes expressed some concerns about expanding the trial. Although he acknowledged that blockchain “provides an opportunity for the individual to have far more control and empowerment through the data and information,” he feels that the government needs a “clear, well thought through and evidenced pathway for moving from pilot to scale.”
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