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18 Jul 2013

Pensioners & seasonal workers blamed for benefit fraud rise

Pensioners who don't declare their savings and seasonal workers have been blamed for a spike in benefit fraud across a Lincolnshire district.

Latest figures show residents of East Lindsey claimed £343,000 in benefits they were not entitled to last year.

The figure is up from £300,000 in the previous year and is almost double any other area of the county.

And the district's fraud team says pensioners who did not declare their savings were partly to blame.

Andy Eaman, investigations supervisor for East Lindsey District Council, said retirees moving to the east coast without declaring their savings were pushing up the figures.
East Lindsey is a much bigger area, which accounts for a lot of the increase compared to different councils. There are pensioners moving into the area who may have failed to declare capital savings. They move into the seaside area for retirement and don't declare. Sometimes it's a mistake, and sometimes we do have to investigate. It's our job to root out the fraudsters.
The £343,000 was paid out between April 2012 and April 13, 2013. It involved 73 cases, which was up from 61 the year before.

Mr Eaman said the district's high proportion of seasonal workers was also adding to the problem.
There's a lot of seasonal work in the East Lindsey area so people go in and out of benefits and it leads to reported change in circumstances. Some people move from one council area to another, so we also carry out joint investigations with colleagues from neighbouring councils. It is changing all the time. But there are new methods of data matching so it is getting harder and harder for anyone to commit fraud. If the circumstances require it, we can prosecute.
A spokesperson from Age UK Lindsey said the charity provides a benefits advice service for pensioners.
We provide this service in our Access Centres in both Louth and Horncastle and also via home visits, and have handled in excess of 4,500 queries relating to benefits and carried out more than 1,000 home visits during the last year. This has helped to identify £2.4 million in previously unclaimed benefits. A thorough check is carried out by our officers before assisting clients to make an application for benefit and they often find that some older people are very reluctant to apply for benefits that they may be entitled to.
Meanwhile, £132,000 of benefits were wrongly claimed in South Kesteven.

In West Lindsey £106,600 was paid out in 88 cases, which was the highest number of cases.

In Lincoln, £96,000 of benefits were fraudulently claimed - a drop from almost £130,000 the year before.

Boston residents claimed £80,000 they were not entitled to and people in South Holland claimed £72,700.

The lowest amount claimed was in North Kesteven, where just £53,000 was paid out over 34 cases.

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