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7 Feb 2012

More on the scale of social housing fraud

We saw recently that one study on the scale of social housing fraud found "indications of fraud" – such as the tenants having mortgages, utility bills or active credit at other addresses – in 5,300 cases out of the 27,000 checked. That's almost 20%.

Now an Experian report suggests its work with over 30 social housing providers showed potential fraud in 6% of tenancies. But this seems to cover different ground from the previous study, concentrating on people with multiple social tenancies.

Experian Public Sector said without any effective data sharing between social housing providers, housing benefit fraud has become more widespread than thought.

They have launched a UK-wide data sharing initiative to detect fraudsters claiming social housing from several local authorities or housing associations.

The scheme will share data checks between all social housing providers and issue fraud alerts to help providers prioritize high risk cases and speed up investigations.

The service will cross match tenancy and waiting and temporary accommodation lists for evidence of the same tenant or co-occupant being resident in other providers' housing.

Nick Mothershaw, director of identity and fraud at Experian UK and Ireland, said:
Too many fraudsters have been able to play the system by applying for and obtaining many social homes from different providers.

Our experience suggests multiple tenancy fraud is more widespread than previously thought and until we have conducted proper analysis across all providers the full scale of it will remain unknown and continue unchecked.
Now this does not supersede the previous study; rather it complements it, though clearly there will be an overlap.

Together these studies suggest that the social housing crisis may have been substantially created by the failure of previous governments to tackle the problem of social housing fraud.

This is also the first benefit sector where data matching may be systematically used to scope the overall extent of fraud.

If similar levels of fraud were seen in other areas of benefits, the potential for savings would be vast. It's an area which governments have chosen to ignore. But politics and economics are converging to suggest that the time to tackle it has come.

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