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29 Sep 2014

DWP declines offer to use CIFAS database

"Bungling Bedroom Tax minister Lord Freud" is now being accused of failing to weed out benefit cheats, says The Mirror. And that could cost the taxpayer up to £2 billion in stolen handouts.

The Welfare Reform minister has snubbed a data matching offer from the UK Fraud Service, Cifas, to identify fraudsters claiming benefits.

That means their cheating will be imported into the new Universal Credit he designed. UC will roll most benefits into one by 2017.

Lord Freud was first asked in October, 2013 if he’d like to cross match benefit claimants against the Cifas database to see if they had a history of fraud. Cifas chief executive Simon Dukes said:
We’ve offered DWP the opportunity to check their books and help to identify benefit fraudsters before they get moved over to Universal Credit. The offer is at no cost to them, and no gain to us. I find it extraordinary that they have not taken it up.
Fraud costs Whitehall £56billion a year - most of it through tax dodging, false benefit claims and pension cheating, the equivalent of £2,500 for every family in Britain.

But it is likely to be more than twice that because only 40 per cent of fraud is detected.

The data matching Cifas is willing to put at Lord Freud’s disposal could uncover much of that. It is within the law to share data to prevent public sector fraud.

Mr Dukes added: “There are benefit claims for people who don’t exist because they’re dead. Fraudsters steal their identity, or families keep drawing pensions for dead relatives.”

Cifas collects the names of the 11,000 people who die in Britain each week.

The Home Office already shares data with Cifas to keep tabs on illegal immigrants. And the material Cifas gathers goes to the City of London Police National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.

Cifas is a not-for-profit service funded by businesses who join up. Mr Dukes says for every £1 spent £200 is saved. And he added: “If you can identify fraud in one place you can stop it occurring elsewhere.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are already working across government to bring in our own counter-fraud database. Universal Credit is expected to further reduce losses by £1billion.”

The government claims losses from benefit fraud are only just over £1 billion now.

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