Victims of domestic abuse are reportedly being tracked through a government system which allows abusive partners to find them using their national insurance number.
Campaigners say tens of thousands of people are being “put at risk” by the system which allows abusers to repeatedly find address details of their victims after they go into hiding.
Charlotte Kneer, head of the Reigate and Banstead Women’s Aid refuge in Surrey, told The Independent that one woman had been traced 11 times by her partner using the technique.
“She has been traced because her ex has a friend who works at the local council,” Ms Kneer said.
“From the frontline work we do, we know people at local councils can trace anyone through their national insurance number.
“If you type this into the database, you can see their name and full address and what benefits they are claiming no matter where in the country they are living.
“The more digging I do into this issue, the scarier it gets. There doesn’t seem to be any way to properly lock the NI number down.”
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According to Ms Kneer several government agencies have failed to take the woman’s national insurance details off their records despite her lobbying them to do so for several months.
The woman is currently living in safety at the refuge, but is leaving within the next few weeks.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there is a process by which a person’s national insurance number can be changed.
But she said after attempting to follow the procedure, the woman’s details remain on the record - meaning she is still vulnerable to being traced.
Ms Kneer said the lack of a proper process is a “systemic failing” and argued that women’s lives were “being put at risk” across the country because of the failings.
Women who suffer from domestic abuse frequently change their names to avoid detection.
But Ms Kneer has now called for women fleeing abuse to be issued with new national insurance numbers, saying that this would stop them having to change their names.
Dawn Butler, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, has reportedly agreed to look into the suggestions following Ms Kneer’s appeal.
According to a report from the Office for National Statistics, two women are killed each week by a current or former partner in England and Wales.
A study carried out last year suggested that an estimated two million adults aged 16 to 59 years had experienced domestic abuse in the previous year.