7 Jul 2015

Why benefit fraud is unpoliceable

In Lincolnshire the annual spend on Housing Benefit is £160m for around 52,500 households.

Nationwide housing benefit costs £26bn.

The numbers in each Lincolnshire district are:

Boston Borough Council – 6,300
City of Lincoln Council – 9,115
East Lindsey District Council – 11,267
North Kesteven District Council – 5,017
South Holland District Council – 4,854
South Kesteven District Council – 10,052
West Lindsey District Council – 5,825

How can handfuls of benefit fraud investigators check these claims?

Authorities across the county report they have joined forces and report they are working together to support the Government's bid to cut the cost of fraud and error.

The Lincolnshire campaign, called Tell Us is encouraging claimants to report their changes in circumstances and will run until March 2016. The councils say they need to know about changes including:

Money coming into the home; such as pensions, wages, other benefits or tax credits.
People who live in the claimant's home.
Savings and investments.

As a priority, the initial focus will be on those considered a high risk of not having reported changes which means they may have received too much Housing Benefit which will have to be paid back.

Cllr Owen Bierley, chairman of West Lindsey District Council's prosperous communities committee said: "Anyone who claims Housing Benefit and has had a change in their circumstances that might affect the amount of benefit they receive should contact their local district or borough council immediately. Most residents will be claiming the correct amount, and therefore do not need to worry. However it is an offence not to declare changes in circumstances, and anyone found to be in receipt of Housing Benefit that they are not entitled to may have to pay back the money and could face court action or financial penalty. Tell Us. We want to help claimants avoid being in such a position."

There are simply too many claimants to investigate.

A campaign determined to get at the (probably unpalatable) truth would review all the housing benefit claimants within a small geographical area and publish the results - and then pick another sample, probably in another district.

And so on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In my authority The Housing Benefit Review means random cases are visited to see if the circumstances match their claim details. There is no investigation as such. The visits are unannounced. I never seen one, which queries very low self employment earnings (and I've seen a window cleaner declaring £6.00 per week profit). So its a token effort.

Other people working in benefits have all commented that fraud is a lot higher than official figures.

Risk Based Review means high risk cases are checked after 3 months and bank statements are requested but thats only declared bank accounts and I see a lot of people being paid in cash.