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14 May 2015

Poll: 66% believe housing benefit fraud is a big problem

As a new Conservative government takes charge, tenancy fraud is highlighted as a big problem across the UK with the illegal claiming of housing benefit seen as the biggest problem of all, according to latest findings from Callcredit Information Group.

It has been estimated that tenancy fraud currently costs councils across the UK £1.8 billion each year. The independent research undertaken by YouGov looked into the types of housing fraud that were seen as the biggest problem by the public, and if the money could be recovered what councils should spend it on. Interestingly respondents across all age groups and regions prioritised affordable housing (50 per cent) as the area to spend recovered money, indicating a united view that more needs to be done to help solve the housing crisis.

The research also revealed a widespread recognition there is a tenancy fraud issue with national unity across the findings and attitudes hardening amongst the older generation.

When asked how big a problem, if at all, do you think tenancy fraud is? The respondents indicated the following was a big problem:

Illegal claiming of housing benefit – 66 per cent
Illegal sub-letting of social housing – 55 per cent
Non-occupancy of social housing by tenants, leaving property empty – 46 per cent
False claiming of the single person discount in social housing – 53 per cent

When asked if tenancy fraud costs could be recovered, what do you think councils should spend it on? The top three findings were:

Affordable housing – 50 per cent
Local healthcare services – 40 per cent
Roads and pavements - 28 per cent

Andrew Davis, Director of public sector, Callcredit Information Group said:
There has been considerable government effort over the past five years to tackle the high levels of fraud and error in the public sector. It is essential that the new Conservative government maintains efforts to reduce fraud and minimise error to help eradicate the deficit. Housing benefit fraud and error cost the taxpayer around £1.2 billion per year and single person discount fraud is currently responsible for an estimated £90 million fraud loss per year. These figures combined with our results highlight that local authorities need to do to more to reduce tenancy fraud and show the public they are taking action to improve fraud and error detection. The savings could make a significant contribution to the public purse and could be used to build more affordable homes, which are urgently needed.

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