THE Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is set to hire dozens of new staff in order to spy on benefits claimants, reports suggest.

An advertisement on shows that the DWP is hiring up to 25 covert surveillance officers, with jobs available in 20 locations around the UK.

The job summary states that successful applicants will be using “covert surveillance” to try and crack down on fraud within the welfare system.

It read: “As part of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) response to tackling fraud within the welfare system, the Department utilise covert surveillance to gather evidence to prove/disprove offences

“This is an opportunity to join our team of highly trained, dedicated operatives in this challenging but highly rewarding role.

“This is not a normal office hours role. It will require you to work unsociable hours (early start and late finishes) including some weekend work alongside a good level of fitness.”

The salary for the role is advertised as between £29,500 to £33,929.

While the description of what the job actually constitutes is vague it does state that those hired will be producing “evidential packages” for use against claimants.

As well as writing up witness statements they may also be required to wear “covert audio equipment”.

It comes as the UK Government seeks to pass the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which would force banks to hand over data on the UK’s 22.6 million benefits claimants.

After passing through its second reading in the House of Commons it is now at committee stage in the House of Lords.

However, the legislation has prompted outrage from privacy campaigners such as Big Brother Watch, who say that the bill as it stands could result in anyone connected to a benefit claimant having their banking data handed over to the DWP.

The job advertisement does not mention whether applicants would be monitoring bank accounts.

However, a DWP employee told the Big Issue that the hiring spree was concerning as it “can signify quite early on what their plans are”.

“To see these covert surveillance roles being advertised makes me fear for the future of not just myself but all of the customers I support,” they said.

It comes after Big Brother Watch wrote a letter calling on the UK Government to scrap its plans to snoop on claimants’ bank accounts.

They said it would “compel third parties including banks, building societies and transmission companies to trawl all customer accounts in search of ‘matching’ accounts without prior suspicion of fraudulent activity, setting a deeply concerning precedent for generalised, intrusive financial surveillance in the UK“.

John Edwards, the UK’s Information Commissioner, has also previously questioned whether the legislation is “tightly drafted” and questioned its proportionality.

The UK Government claims that its plans to tackle fraud in the benefit system will save the DWP £1.3 billion.

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However, the SNP's social justice spokesperson at Westminster, David Linden MP (above), said: "This disgraceful move from the Department of Work and Pensions is just the latest in a series of policies that penalises claimants, undermines their rights and treats them like criminals.

"In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government is building a social security system based on values of fairness, dignity and respect.

"We have uprated benefits in line with inflation, increased the game-changing Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week per child, and implemented the Best Start Grants to help people through the cost of living crisis.

“However, the sad reality is that all of that progress continues to be undermined while we remain under Westminster control. The Tories and Labour have proven time and time again that tackling poverty and making life better for people in Scotland is not their priority.

“The only way to ensure that Scotland's voice and values continue to be represented at Westminster is to vote SNP in the upcoming election.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman said the system of imposing sanctions of benefits claimants had already cost lives. 

"It is as if the DWP is desperate to cement its reputation as one of the harshest, cruellest and most punishing government departments," she said.

"The sanctions regime it oversees has ruined lives and hounded people to early graves. It's rotten to the core and has no place in the compassionate Scotland we want to build.

"Rather than hiring more staff to snoop and spy on vulnerable people, the UK government should be creating a system that treats claimants with humanity and dignity.

“And we should be tackling the real scroungers - the tax dodgers and tax avoiders that rob the public purse of resources that should be being used to make our society fairer and more equal.”