29 Oct 2010

Piffling sentences for benefit fraud mothers

Paula Moxon from Barnsley admitted single person fraud of £10,204. She was fined a mere £100 on each of two charges and ordered to pay costs of £320 plus a victim surcharge of £15. She is also paying back all the benefit she has received since 2005, which will take her many years to repay, the court heard.

Lee-Anne Jennings from Southampton claimed nearly £50,000 in income support as a single parent for almost five years, even though her husband had moved back in with her after a temporary separation.

Because of poor health, she received an 18-week sentence, suspended for 18 months, and 150 hours community service at a charity shop one day a week. She is paying the stolen benefit payments back voluntarily at a rate of £9 a week, which will take 106 years.
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Benefit thieves should have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

28 Oct 2010

Benefit fraud totals

Deaf Tim (who I think we've seen here before) cries shame on me, on the basis that I know that government conflate fraud and error. So when ministers refer to £5bn of benefit fraud, I should know better than to believe them.

Indeed the churches have confirmed what I said about Osborne's Commons speech, that he too referred to £5bn of benefit fraud.

The Treasury has indeed rowed back from this, saying it is the total of fraud and error.

The churches said the £5bn figure Mr Osborne quoted in his spending review speech wrongly depicted the poorest and most vulnerable in society as thieves, reports the BBC. The President of the Methodist Conference said:
Exaggerating benefit fraud points the finger of blame at the poor.
Nonsense. No one is claiming that most people with below average incomes are benefit cheats. No one is saying that most poor people cheat the system.

However, most people who do cheat the benefits system probably are "poor" - though plenty aren't, as comments here from front line benefits officials make clear.

If something immoral is being done by people who are poor, there is nothing wrong in expressing blame. The poor are not exempt from moral judgements. To claim otherwise is patronising and sanctimonious.

But lookee here. Three-quarters of people who applied for new benefits for the long-term sick failed tests to prove they were too ill to work.

As the Mail says, this raises fresh questions over how many of the 2.6million people on the existing incapacity benefit are really incapable of being employed.
The figures suggest that if they were tested to the same extent the number would fall as low as 650,000.

This would slash the £12.5billion bill for incapacity benefit to just over £4billion a year.
Could all of this £8.5bn be down to honest mistakes? Highly unlikely. If half of it is fraudulent, there in one stroke you have the missing £4bn of benefit fraud to add to the government's fictitious numbers.

The churches' faux indignation is ill timed.

27 Oct 2010

Another light benefit fraud sentence

A benefit cheat who pretended she was a lone parent to falsely claim more than £50,000 "has avoided prison", we are told.

Julie Drury, from Orpington, was given a 12 month community order and a three month curfew after pleading guilty to two counts of benefit fraud at Croydon Crown Court. Despite the paper's write up, there was never any prospect of her being sent top prison. It seems she didn't even get community service.

During the hearing on October 11, the court heard the 52-year-old had claimed benefits as a lone parent between February 2002 and October last year despite living with her husband.

Drury claimed a total of £28,788 in housing and council tax benefits from Bromley Council, and £23,251 in income support from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Bromley Council was alerted to the fraud after an anonymous tip-off, and is now trying to recover the £28,788 Drury falsely claimed.
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.


    Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

26 Oct 2010

Children's champion was benefit thief

The founder of a charity for children with disabilities in west Lancashire has been sentenced for benefit fraud.

Joanne Mawdsley, 38, collected almost £12,000 in carer's allowance over a five-year period while earning £1,800 a month from Legacy Rainbow House.

Blackpool Magistrates gave Mawdsley a six-week curfew order and ordered her to pay £100 costs.

Mawdsley received the UK Community Action Award from Tony Blair for her charity work in 2007.

"It was a grave mistake but it was an oversight and I offered to pay the money back but it was too late," Mawdsley said after the hearing.

"I am gutted it has happened and I am paying the price for it."

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said because of the level of fraud involved they had no choice in prosecuting her.

A spokesman for the DWP said they may impose fines rather than court prosecutions "if it's the first offence and the overpayment doesn't exceed £2,000."

Mawdsley said she hoped it would not affect Legacy Rainbow House.

"I love helping the children there and will continue to do all I can to help them," she said.

Mawdsley founded Rainbow House in 2001 to provide services for children with health issues like her two sons, who have a rare genetic disorder.

25 Oct 2010

Cruddas gets the wrong end of the stick

Private landlords are refusing to cut their rents down to the level of caps imposed by ministers, Sky reports, quoting The Observer. This is because landlords are continuing to enjoy a healthy rental market buoyed by young professionals who cannot afford to buy.

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham, says:
It is an exercise in social and economic cleansing. It is tantamount to cleansing the poor out of rich areas - a brutal and shocking piece of social engineering.
But is it good value for taxpayers to pay high rents on behalf of people on welfare?

Similarly David Orr of the National Housing Federation says that:
London is one of the most vibrant and socially mixed cities in the world - and yet the diversity, for which it is so famous, is under threat from the changes to housing benefit.
Mr Orr, should a family on average earnings in Salford be subsidising London landlords to promote diversity in London?

The government has replied that:
Some private landlords target those on Housing Benefit because they can command higher rents from tenants causing a knock on effect on rents in the area.

The current way that it is administered is unfair. It's not right that some families on benefits have been able to live in homes that most working families could not afford.

However, we are absolutely committed to supporting the most vulnerable families and have tripled our Discretionary Housing Payments to provide a safety net for those who need it.
For the state to throw taxpayers' cash at promoting "diversity" in its richest city is hobby government - ministers indulging their whims at our expense.

Cruddas should be hanging his head in shame at Labour's profligacy.

23 Oct 2010

Ill mannered commenter gets it wrong

The facility for visitors to comment anonymously is intended for employees in the benefits system, who for obvious reasons can't leave their names (though this does sometimes stop me following up interesting points). It's also used by the occasional claimant. That's fine too.

However, an anonymous commenter here uses the facility to say
Please at least read the government's documents properly and not just the headlines. There's been no jump in the figures, just inaccurate reporting.
I had reported that "the coalition government says welfare fraud costs £5.2 billion pounds a year".

Well I am pretty sure I heard George Osborne say that in his Commons speech. Now, where might he have got that from?

In the DWP document which I referenced in the post, the Ministerial Foreword states that
This document sets out a radical new approach for addressing welfare fraud, which now costs the taxpayer £5.2 billion pounds every year, or £165 every second.
Take your indignation to Lord Freud and David Gauke, then.

22 Oct 2010

A visitor asks

I have read your site as i'm myself in a situation.I havent done any wrong in life and did not know of JSA.I was in a situation of having casual contrat and did not know whome to contact JSA.I am now been procecured for not letting them know even though i am paying all money back,with our questioning.I have never claimed JSA and always paid my tax and where do i stand a fair trial ?.

21 Oct 2010

CIPFA on housing fraud

CIPFA have produced a briefing note on basic ways to prevent single person discount (SPD) fraud.

There is also even more basic advice on tackling housing allocation fraud. This is really just at the bureaucratic level of what documentation to seek.

Govt says welfare fraud over £5bn

The coalition government says welfare fraud costs £5.2 billion pounds a year.

Of course this is a huge increase over the previous government's "central estimate" of over £1 billion, and changes the terms of the debate.

More later.

Suspended sentence for benefit cheat

This is the heading on a report about a St Helens woman who pleaded guilty to three offences of benefit fraud and was sentenced to 36 hours custody suspended for 2 years and 200 hours community service. She is also required to pay back the full overpayment.

She had failed to declare that her husband had moved into her property and that they were living together as husband and wife. And how much had she stolen from us?

£59,207.21.

We will have to see if Osborne's mention today of firmer measures against benefit fraud is more than rhetoric.

20 Oct 2010

Asset seizure for Ealing benefit thief

A benefit cheat who accrued more than a quarter of a million pounds has been jailed for 12 months, ordered to pay compensation and will have her assets seized by officers.

Matilda Akua Ampaw Gittens Kwapong fraudulently received around £360,000 over a 19-year period after telling Ealing Council she was evicted from her home which she bought in 1988.

She then sub-let the two-bedroom flat from 1990 and used the money to repay her mortgage.

Her deception only came to light in 2009 when one of her tenants made a claim for housing benefit.

Kwapong also claimed housing benefit and Council Tax discounts during some of the period despite running a successful hairdressing business in Shepherd's Bush.

On July 22, Kwapong pleaded guilty at Ealing Magistrates' Court for the offences of deception and false accounting and a confiscation order was also sought.

Officers from the Ealing Borough Police Financial Investigation Unit in partnership with Ealing Council calculated that she benefited by £140,000 from the open market of the tenancy, obtained £91,000 in rent from sub-letting and received a pecuniary advantage of £122,000 increase in the market value of her house, which she invested.

At Isleworth Crown Court on October 15, she was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, ordered to pay compensation to Ealing Council of £76,697, pay the Council's legal costs of £6,132 and £290,451 worth of her assets will be confiscated.

If Kwapong fails to pay the amount within 12 months, she will face a further three year jail term and will still owe the outstanding debt.

19 Oct 2010

Slow conclusion of case brings light sentence

This case was investigated slowly and resulted in a light sentence, bringing no credit on anyone.

A greedy benefit cheat who withdrew £26,000 out of her bank account when she discovered she was being investigated has received a suspended prison sentence.

Collette Anazodo, from Shepherds Bush, hastily took out the cash when she realised Hammersmith and Fulham Council were probing her entitlement to Housing and Council Tax benefit.

The 36-year-old had not only been claiming benefits while working but she also tried to hide thousands of pounds she had saved in three separate bank account.

When she was invited to attend an interview under caution by the council’s fraudbusters she failed to turn up, withdrew the money out of her account and subsequently snubbed a further five invitations.

When she was eventually collared in October last year, she claimed she was entitled to the benefit because she was ill thus did not have to declare her job.

She also pleaded ignorance about declaring her nest eggs.

She eventually admitted fleecing the council out of £17,766 in Housing Benefit and £4,130 of Council Tax Benefit. She also swindled £37,000 from the DWP.

Anazodo was convicted of benefit fraud and money laundering, due to her withdrawing the large sum, and was sentenced to two years in jail suspended for ten months.
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.


    Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

18 Oct 2010

Three strikes and you're out (for a while)

So, the government suggests that if you are found guilty of benefit fraud three times you should lose your benefit for three years.

Feeble.

These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

Benefit thieves should have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

Benefit fraud costs us billions of pounds each year. Most fraudsters don't get caught. Most fraudsters who get caught don't get prosecuted.

If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

15 Oct 2010

Councillor attacks repulsive benefit fraud sentence

Sentences handed out to benefit cheats who lived the life of luxury in Chertsey are a “slap in the face”, according to Runnymede Council leader John Furey.

He hit out after Matthew Newland, a member of a family of benefit scroungers who swindled hundreds of thousands of pounds from tax payers, was sentenced to 18 months in prison at Guildford Crown Court on Friday.

Newland, 41, lived with his family in a static caravan in Hardwick Lane, Chertsey as he fraudulently claimed £31,848.46 in incapacity benefit, disability living allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support.

He was arrested in 2008 following an investigation by the DWP, but skipped bail and fled to Australia just days before he was due to appear in court in April alongside his wife Wendy Newland and sister Caroline Draper-Smith.

Wendy Newland and Draper-Smith were each sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for swindling around £50,000 from the taxpayer but both served just six weeks in jail.

Cllr Furey said their early release and the short sentence given to Newland was “repulsive”. He said: “Runnymede Borough Council will always prosecute people who seek to take advantage of the benefit system, however the sentences handed out and then alleviated by the courts are a slap in the face for the people of Runnymede who have funded these peoples lifestyle through their taxes. I find it repulsive that they are out so soon.”

Newland, whose family has since moved to Virginia Water, bought himself expensive cars with his ill-gotten gains and sent his children to private schools.

He admitted five counts of benefit fraud and one count of failure to surrender.

P.S. The unaccountable Sentencing Council wants fewer violent offenders to be jailed.

14 Oct 2010

Is this bias?

Suppose a journalist contacted you expressing an interest in "stories of benefit fraud, particularly those of company directors declaring low income but high dividends and getting benefits".

Would you think that was a focus on the central issue?

Well, if you have any feedback on that topic, you can leave it in the comments.

It seemed to me to be a focus on what is probably a very small niche. But I'm open to persuasion.

13 Oct 2010

More from the benefit fraud front line

A visitor writes:
When re-possessing a property we own we found numerous opened and unopened benefit letters from several agencies. Two separate constabularies were also looking for our ex tenant. I reported the matter to the local FIS Dept and Housing Benefit fraud unit as well as the two police forces involved. Since then several other similar items of mail have arrived and I have tried to notify the various interested agencies. The FIS seem completely negative in their approach to this telling me all of the things they can't do because of 'Data Protection'.

There appears to be no co-ordination between the agencies or even interest in talking to each other. Why do we bother to report these matters?

12 Oct 2010

Government has to grip incapacity benefit

IDS says that some 23% of the country's 2.1 million claimants for Incapacity Benefit (IB)  could be found fit for work. This, it is said, should save the Exchequer some £4 billion.

The Spectator recalls that provisional figures released in July suggested that 40% of IB claimants could be identified for moving back into the labour market. But it won't be plain sailing.

As the paper remind us, there are already question marks over the new testing regime for IB. And getting these people into work won't be easy.

Even when new jobs were being created under the Labour government, the vast majority went to immigrants. But now the number of jobs is likely to be stable at best.

Government doesn't always help. An unemployed electrician told 5Live Drive that his certification body doesn't recognise his City & Guilds qualification. He has to pay several hundred pounds to be recognised as qualified, but he claims that east European immigrants can gain recognition much more easily.

Government rhetoric concentrates on the kindly image of nervous IB claimants being given a caring hand up. But to save £4 billion, some claimants will have to get a boot on the bum. Government will also have to trample down obstacles to UK residents getting jobs.

This means not chasing after every hare. One thing to leave alone is the new EHRC report How Fair Is Britain? - an odd document since even the so called executive summary runs to 48 pages. It calls for urgent action to expand opportunities for some ethnic groups to find good jobs and get places at top universities. But the discrimination it claims to have found is complex. In some areas of life, working-class white boys and men struggle compared with second generation immigrants. Chinese and Indian men are nearly twice as likely as white British men to find professional, middle-class jobs. The EHRC calls for urgent action to expand opportunities for some ethnic groups to find good jobs and get places at top universities.

But this isn't what you'd expect if discrimination was a leading factor. Could education and initiative have something to do with it? More than half of Muslim men and three quarters of Muslim women are unemployed. Hence:
The Equality and Human Rights Commission says more should be done to ensure that Muslims in particular are helped to find jobs.
They're all offered pretty much the same education, and there's a limit to the amount of handholding we can afford.

Let's concentrate our efforts on benefit reform and removing obstacles to employment for all UK residents.

11 Oct 2010

New benefit fraud figures

The Daily Mail reports new benefits numbers:
Cases of overpayment soared to 499,204 in 2009/10 compared with 439,966 the year before.

But only a tiny number of the fraudsters are taken to court. In 2009/10, just 7,765 cases led to prosecutions compared with 8,701 in 2008/9.

The amount of money recovered has risen over the past year from £280million to £294.4million but by far less than the estimated amount of overpayment.

Blind £24k benefits thief avoids jail

A blind woman and her carer have avoided prison after she was overpaid nearly £24,000 in benefits and failed to declare inheriting an £80,000 flat.

Carolyn Geraghty, 55, of Barnhayes, Bampton, near Tiverton, was given six months in prison, suspended for two years, at Exeter Crown Court, and a 12-week curfew to stay at home from 9pm to 6am daily.

David Howard, 66, of the same address, was given a year's community order and told to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

Both admitted four offences of producing documents they knew to be false. Geraghty also admitted three charges of dishonestly failing to disclose information, and Howard admitted one similar charge.

Prosecutor Brendon Moorhouse said Geraghty had originally been genuinely entitled to income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, but then committed offences over a six-year period from 2003.

She was registered blind, though she had some sight, and relied heavily on others to complete forms for her.

She was widowed in 2000 and began claiming benefits.

Geraghty moved into her council house in Bampton and failed to declare that Howard was living with her or that he was working. She would have still been entitled to benefits, but at a reduced amount.

In 2005 she inherited a flat in Heysham, Lancashire, worth at least £80,000 at the time, but failed to tell the authorities.

"Both Mrs Geraghty and Mr Howard knew they were living together," Mr Moorhouse said. "He became involved in assisting her with completing forms, in particular housing and council tax benefit. He assisted her in making a false document. She failed to declare she had inherited that property."

Mr Moorhouse said Geraghty was overpaid around £6,514 in income support and £17,274 in housing and council tax benefits. She was now repaying it.

Howard's charges totalled £1,015 of her income support and around £2,625 of the other benefits he was involved in her being overpaid for.

Neither of the defendants had a criminal record.

Geraghty's defence counsel, Lee Bremridge, said she had not been deliberately dishonest when she relied on Howard to do her paperwork.

"He was her carer and he did the forms, as she couldn't, and she signed them," he said. "She accepts that she should have been more vigilant."

He said the inherited flat had been a burden rather than a lucrative source of money, and the defendant feared she would be forced to give up her council house if she declared it.

He said the flat would probably have to be sold as part of confiscation proceedings.

Warren Robinson, for Howard, said: "He has expressed his regret to the writer of the pre-sentence report. This has been a very difficult experience."

8 Oct 2010

Slow investigation of £40k benefit fraud

A Newport woman has been given a suspended prison sentence after fraudulently claiming more than £40,000 in benefits over a 12-year period.

Newport magistrates’ court heard Donna Young dishonestly obtained council tax and housing benefits between June 1997 and July 2009, by claiming she was the only adult living at her Aberthaw Road home when her boyfriend, Brian Ley, was also living there.

Simon Cadenhead, prosecuting, told the court Young, 41, wrote on numerous benefits forms over the 12-year period that there were no other adults living in the house – just her daughter, now 15.

He said Newport council officers began investigating Young in August 2008, after receiving an allegation she and a man were "living together as husband and wife".

The court heard Mr Ley had claimed to live in Howe Circle, Newport, with her father, but investigators found he had never lived there and his car and work records were registered to Young’s Aberthaw Road address.

In June last year, surveillance was carried out for three days outside Young’s home and Mr Ley was seen leaving and entering the house on several occasions.

Young was interviewed and admitted dishonestly producing false information to Newport council in order to obtain benefits for herself at a court hearing earlier this year.

Over 12 years, Young claimed £36,163 in housing benefits and £4,673 in council tax benefits – totalling £40,836, which will have to be paid back to Newport council.

Mr Cadenhead said it was possible Young’s benefits claims dated back further than June 1997, but records of housing and council tax benefits only go back to that year.

Magistrates sentenced her to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Chair of the bench Brian White said: "This was a serious offence carried out over a significant period of time and you had ample opportunity to put matters right."

After the case, a Newport council spokeswoman said Young will be offered the opportunity to form an agreement with the authority to pay the money back on a weekly or monthly basis.

She said if Young fails to make or keep to the agreement, the council will seek civil proceedings.
  • Let's look at the sequence of events. They start the investigation in August 2008. It takes them until June 2009 - ten months later - before they carry out surveillance. All this time she's claiming. The stately pace is costing money.

    Briefly things speed up. The claims stop the following month, so probably that is when she is interviewed.

    Then it goes quiet again. Some time in 2010 she appears in court to plead guilty, and only in October 2010 is she sentenced - over two years from the start of what should have been a routine investigation.

    If this is how investigations are conducted, there is no hope of getting on top of benefit fraud.

7 Oct 2010

Real time IT system for DWP

Iain Duncan Smith has signalled his commitment to a real-time benefits system to be set up within the DWP, notes Dominic Fallows.

The system will be designed to reduce the over-generous payouts and crippling repayment demands associated with the current annualised tax credit system.

It will also be used to implement a new Universal Credit which he announced at the party’s Birmingham conference with representatives cheering a supposed crackdown on welfare cheats.

Universal Credit is expected in the longer term to replace Job Seeker’s Allowance and a host of other benefits as well as tax credits, and was announced in a keynote speech at the conference.

He wants a system that will react and recalculate entitlements as soon as new information is available from claimants. The object will be the widest possible online claim filing and a requirement for immediate change-of-circumstance reporting.

He said: “I am delighted to announce the introduction of the Universal Credit, which will, I believe, restore fairness and simplicity to a complex, outdated and wildly expensive benefits system, a real-time system which will also help cut the cost of fraud and error.”

Duncan Smith is understood to have come to an arrangement with chancellor George Osborne to phase in changes over the next five years to enable high upfront costs to be offset by savings in what he told representatives will be ”the biggest reform of the welfare system in a generation”. He wants the system to start in 2013.

Proposals for “real-time” income tax calculation were revealed in the Commons a month ago by exchequer secretary David Gauke following the row over a flood of demands for extra tax payments as well as refunds that were the result of the delayed implementation of the introduction of a new HMRC computer system co-ordinating and reconciling individual taxpayer records.

No jail for £48k benefit thief

A benefit fraudster who conned her way to at least £48,500 has avoided a jail sentence.

Patricia Wiltshire, 45, from Ewell, pleaded guilty to 13 offences relating to fraudulently claimed income support, and housing and council tax benefit dating as far back as 1996.

But at Guildford Crown Court last week Judge Robert Reid handed her a 10 month jail suspended sentence, and a six month curfew order meaning she must stay at home between 7pm and 7am.

She has also been ordered to pay back more than £48,500. The court heard this did not reflect the total benefits she had received fraudulently, but the length of time she had been conning the authorities meant some records were not available.

Wiltshire was caught after a joint investigation by Epsom and Ewell Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

Councillor Keith Mann, chairman of the council's strategy and resources committee said: “We would normally expect a custodial sentence for such a serious case of benefit fraud.

"However, we are pleased the court has demonstrated the seriousness of the offences by imposing a stiff sentence while also acknowledging the damage prison could do to Mrs Wiltshire in her situation.”

Light sentence for £30k benefit fraud

A benefit cheat who stole nearly £30,000 has been handed a three-month curfew.

Stephen Farrington, from Willingham, did not tell the authorities that he had part-ownership of a property, or that he had started work as a bathroom fitter.

As a result he was overpaid £15,602 in housing and council tax benefits, and £14,244 in income support, making the fraud one of the biggest of its kind in the area in recent years.

The cash will now be recovered by South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

At Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, Farrington pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements between 2004 and 2006, and one charge of failing to report a change in his circumstances, committed in 2007.

He was sentenced to a three-month curfew which means he cannot leave his home between 7pm and 7am, and will be electronically tagged.

Cllr Simon Edwards, the council’s deputy leader and finance chief, welcomed the sentence - which seems odd.

He said: "Benefit fraud is a crime which may result in the perpetrator receiving a criminal record as well as having to repay the stolen money.

"It is due to hard work by the council investigators that people in South Cambridgeshire who are committing benefit fraud will be caught."
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.


    Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

6 Oct 2010

"Britain's welfare families"

This is the title of a new Spectator post.

The government figures in the table show, for instance, 280 people with eight or more children claiming incapacity benefit. There are 640 claimants with seven children, and 1,810 with six.

This is possible. But is it likely?

Long, slow benefit fraud investigation

A benefits cheat who claimed he could barely walk while secretly working as a children's entertainer called "Wavey Davey" has been jailed for 24 weeks.

David Simpson, 45, pocketed £35,410 in Disability Living Allowance after telling officials he was "virtually invalid" for at least nine years.

Simpson, from Wallsend Court, Widnes, Cheshire, was arrested after an anonymous tip-off about his activities led to a 19-month undercover investigation by fraud inspectors from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Covert surveillance caught him performing as "Wavey Davey" at children's parties across the North West and also as a gymnastics instructor for a local authority.

Simpson holds a silver medal in gymnastics from the "Alternative" Commonwealth Games in 1986, which took place amid a boycott of the main games in Edinburgh that year by anti-apartheid campaigners.

He pleaded guilty to false accounting on August 31 and was sentenced today at Warrington Crown Court.

Passing sentence, Judge Thomas Teague QC told Simpson he could only give an immediate prison sentence for such a "blatant" scam.

He said: "On 8 March 1991, you submitted a claim form in which you alleged that you were only able to walk a short distance and could only climb stairs with pain.

"The fact was that you had in fact sustained an injury, a significant injury, in a road traffic accident some 18 months or two years earlier.

"And, until then, you had been a young man with an extremely promising career as an athlete.

"In 1992, the rate at which you could claim increased and you continued to receive payments until you came under investigation in 2008, a total period of some 17 years.

"It is clear that, when you made your very first claim before 1991, it was a genuine and legitimate claim.

"However it is clear that there was some considerable improvement in your condition. You had in fact been working as a children's entertainer, something that clearly involved mobility far in excess of what you had put in your claim form, and you were working as a pre-school gym instructor."

He added: "There was a total overpayment of £35,410 and some pence. That was not paid to you directly either on a weekly or monthly basis but every three years or so, when you purchased a car, you received from the taxpayer a significant contribution to the cost of your vehicle by reason of the serious restrictions on your mobility.

"This was just too blatant to suspend the inevitable term of custody."

Simpson is voluntarily paying back £100 a month, with his first payment due tomorrow.

James Smith, mitigating, said Simpson's reputation was now in "complete tatters".
  • Why did the investigation take 19 months? This certainly looks like overkill.

    These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Benefit thieves should have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

5 Oct 2010

Another light benefit fraud sentence

A Lichfield woman has admitted being a benefit fraudster – after it was revealed that she had more than a quarter of a million pounds in assets.

Linda Gough, 65, of Broad Lane in the city, pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly making a false representation in her claim for council tax benefit at Tamworth Magistrates Court on October 8.

Mrs Gough had been claiming council tax benefit since July 2009, despite having assets of more than £211,000. She then received a further £74,000 in December 2009, which brought her total amount of undeclared funds to over £285,000.

As a result of Mrs Gough not declaring her savings, she claimed £3,163 in council tax benefit she was not entitled to, writes The Lichfield Blog.

Mrs Gough has now repaid all the money to Lichfield District Council. She also left court with a criminal record and was ordered to pay a fine of £400, costs of £495, and a victim surcharge of £15.
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.


    Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

4 Oct 2010

No jail for £52k benefit fraud

A crown court judge has given a Chester woman a suspended jail term after she admitted benefit fraud amounting to £52,484.

Julie Smith, from Blacon, had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing at Chester Crown Court to three offences.

They were dishonestly failing to promptly notify Cheshire West and Chester Council and the DWP of a change in her circumstances that she knew would affect her entitlement to housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support, namely she was living with her partner who was working and was therefore in a position to provide her with financial support.

The Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, sentenced Miss Smith to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. She was also placed under a supervision order for 18 months and a drug rehabilitation requirement for 12 months.

Miss Smith is required to fully repay the overpaid benefit to both Cheshire West and Chester Council and the DWP. Yeah, right - that should hurt.
  • These people do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

    Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.


    Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

    If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.