11 Sep 2014

Dundee reports low benefit fraud figures

More than 60 people have been investigated by the Dundee City Council benefit counter-fraud unit this year.

New figures show that of the 61 individuals probed since April, 14 have had their council benefits reduced or completely terminated.

In total, £57,602 of housing and council tax benefits were assessed to have been overpaid to residents by the council. When including Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) overpayments and tax credits, the total figure of money handed out fraudulently rose to £109,785.

But that was still down on the total of £146,603 for the same time last year.

A report by the council’s director of corporate services, Marjory Stewart, said: “The level of benefit overpayments identified as a result of counter-fraud activity has decreased compared to the previous year. This can be attributed mainly to two factors — the Council Tax Benefit scheme being abolished in the previous year and the local joint counter-fraud initiative with the DWP. Overpayment results from this pilot should be realised throughout the financial year.”

The drop was despite the fact there is one less full-time fraud investigator employed, meaning there are just three in the city now.

And although there have been 61 investigations launched, the fraud squad have received a whopping 307 social security benefit referrals this year — just five down on the last financial term.

There has also been a new section of the benefit counter-fraud unit set up this year which launches “Corporate Fraud Investigations”.

In its first months, it has begun to crack down on different elements of “high-risk” fraud areas that include the council tax reduction scheme, council tax discounts and exemptions, housing tenancy and blue badge, that had previously not been assessed.

Despite the fact this element of the scheme is new, the report boasts that the unit has already prosecuted a blue badge offender in Dundee.

In total, there have been 20 such investigations launched since the new scheme was launched, four of which have been “successful” which has led to financial savings of £4,363.

The report added: “The benefit counter-fraud unit has widened its scope of investigative work in accordance with the council’s corporate fraud and corruption policy. This has resulted in counter-fraud officers beginning to investigate identified high-risk fraud areas across the council. Whilst work is very much in its infancy, the unit has already successfully prosecuted a blue badge offender in Dundee.”

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