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How post can enable domestic abuse

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Citizens Advice, research, domestic abuse, perpetrators, intercepted post, BEIS, Addess and Collect, addresses revealed, ICOPeople in unsafe or untraditional living situations need safe access to their post.

Citizens Advice research has found that half of survivors of domestic abuse have their post intercepted by the perpetrator and they face significant harm because their post is not secure and their address is regularly disclosed.

Survivors who Citizens Advice researchers spoke to missed out on cancer treatments, faced thousands of pounds of debt from unpaid bills, and lost touch with their support networks as a result of perpetrators hiding their letters.

Perpetrators also use information they find in survivors’ letters to discredit them to certain services, to financially abuse them, and to control and monitor their movements.

When survivors leave the home where they experienced abuse, they often need to keep their whereabouts secret.

However, 40 per cent of survivors who have left the home have had an agency disclose their new address to the perpetrator.

This puts their safety at significant risk and leads survivors to avoid engaging with services for fear of giving out their address.

The impact is huge.

It affects someone’s financial affairs, interaction with essential services, practical day to day issues, their wellbeing and their safety.

Survivors have lost £7.1 billion in the last 10 years as a result of perpetrators intercepting their post.

Survivors miss appointments with essential services because perpetrators hide their letters.

One in 2 survivors who have left the home avoid engaging with a service because they don’t want to give out their address.

And 71 per cent of survivors who had their new address disclosed by an agency said their safety was compromised as a result.

Over half felt stressed or anxious as a result of having their post intercepted.

Citizens Advice has two main recommendations:

1 – The government should invest in an ‘Address and Collect’ service, provided at post offices, to ensure people in unsafe or untraditional living situations have equal access to post.

2 – The Information Commissioner’s Office should investigate the significant number of data breaches, highlighted by this research, that put survivors of domestic abuse at serious risk.

An ‘Address and Collect’ service is a dedicated service giving people in unsafe or untraditional living situations equal access to post. Comparable to a PO box, it would provide users with an address and a place to pick up their post.

This is the second time Citizens Advice research has revealed a large group of UK residents who do not have adequate access to post, and who suffer severe consequences as a result.

In 2000, the government put in place a Universal Service Obligation to ensure everyone can access post.

However, Citizens Advice research has now shown that homeless people and survivors of domestic abuse can not receive post in the reliable, accessible, and secure way that people in more traditional living situations take for granted.

Homeless people and survivors of domestic abuse are not the only ones experiencing these issues. Anyone who doesn’t have an address, who moves around frequently, or who doesn’t have secure access to their post can face these problems.

As the department responsible for postal policy, it should be a priority for the government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to ensure the postal service is truly universal. The department should invest in an ‘Address & Collect’ service provided at post offices to ensure all residents have equal access to this essential service.

A similar service has been successfully rolled out in post offices in Ireland. In 2019, An Post created a new service – Address Point – which gives homeless people an address and allows them to pick up their post from a post office.

Disclosing someone’s personal information without their consent is a serious matter in itself. But when doing so puts someone’s life in danger, it’s essential to do everything possible to prevent disclosures from happening.

It is unacceptable that 40 per cent of the survivors who left the home where they experienced abuse had their new address revealed to the perpetrator by an agency or service.

The Information Commissioner’s Office should take immediate action to understand how these serious data breaches are happening, why they continue to happen and what action must be taken to prevent another person’s life being put in danger because of a data breach.

To read the full report, click here.

Alok Sharma MP is the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: you can find how to contact him here or your own MP here and ask them to make the changes needed.

If you need information or support on domestic abuse, click here.

In an emergency or if you feel threatened, call 999 and ask for the police.

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