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15 Apr 2013

Benefit fraudsters to lose benefits

A blitz on benefits cheats from today could see them lose handouts for up to three years, says The Express.

The crackdown aims to claw back £1billion a year lost to a “scurrilous minority”.

As part of a radical overhaul of the welfare system, repeat offenders will lose their benefits for 13 weeks, 26 weeks or three years, depending on the severity of their crime.

Last year 10,000 people were caught cheating the system.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s fresh war on the workshy will also see hit squads sent to flush out suspect claimants.

He said:
We’re telling these repeat offenders – if you cheat the system, you could lose your benefits for up to three years.

The benefits system is there to help people when they need it most, so it’s particularly galling when some people try to cheat the system not just once, but two or three times.
Those found guilty of serious organised or identity benefit fraud will be hauled before the courts and sentenced.

Investigators will use the Proceeds Of Crime Act to force cheats to repay their ill-gotten gains or face jail.

But the fraudsters will also automatically lose their handouts for the maximum term and be left to fend for themselves without state help.

Under the measures too, those who fail to actively seek and be available for work face having their benefits stopped for up to three months.

Refusing to accept a reasonable job offer or leaving a job voluntarily without good reason would see benefits axed for three months for a first offence, six months for a second and three years for a third offence.

A failure to undertake a direction given by a Jobcentre Plus adviser would be deemed a low-level offence, which would see claimants having their benefits stopped for one month the first time and three months for subsequent breaches.

The crackdown is part of the fight against those who see Britain’s £208billion annual welfare bill as a limitless cash machine. Mr Duncan Smith said his reforms were urgently needed to repair the broken benefits system and discourage a new breed of lifelong layabouts.

Shocking figures released last night showed that over the past five years cheats had conned taxpayers out of £1.3billion in housing benefit, £1.08billion in Income Support, £620million of Pension Credit and £610million in Jobseekers’ Allowance. Last year alone the total was £1.2billion.

Earlier this month, the Daily Express revealed how benefit fraudsters who work while claiming handouts would have their wages seized as part of a £250million crackdown.

It is now no longer necessary for fraud investigators to go to court to claw back welfare payments. Instead, they can bypass the protracted and expensive legal process by seizing money directly from cheats’ pay packets.

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