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Showing posts with label local tenancy fraud totals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label local tenancy fraud totals. Show all posts

1 Nov 2019

Rochdale still owed £5m+ in overpaid housing benefits

Rochdale Council is still owed £5.1m in housing benefits wrongly paid to residents.

The figure represents the total amount of money outstanding – including from previous years – yet to be recouped by the authority.

Overpayments made to people in receipt of the benefit over the last financial year came to £1.9m, while some £330,000 was written off over the same period.

The council says while the overall amount owing is the lowest in Greater Manchester, it will use all the tools at its disposal to recover the money.

Neil Thornton, the council’s director of resources, said: “We take all reasonable efforts to recover any amount due. In certain circumstances this can include deductions directly from future Housing Benefit payments, from DWP benefits or from earnings.”

He added overpayments were only written off by the council ‘after all available recovery options have been exhausted or if the person has absconded and is unable to be found’.

The rules on who is eligible for housing benefit are set by the government and the payments are administered by local authorities.

Overpayments can happen for a variety of reasons, from residents making mistakes or failing to notify a change in circumstances to fraudulent activity.

Nearly £1.8 million in overpaid housing benefits was recovered by the council during the 2018/19 financial year.

Rochdale council is currently facing a budget gap of more than £7m, making it vital to keep the amount of money it loses to fraud and error to an absolute minimum. Mr Thornton said the council has plans in place to ensure this is the case.

He said: “We have a range of preventative measures – these include verifying information from residents with supporting evidence and using a range of data matching sources from DWP, HMRC, landlords and employers,” he said.

“Claims and changes are not processed until appropriate evidence is provided to support the information provided. Changes in circumstances are processed quickly, particularly if these will result in less Housing Benefit being due. In some cases, payment is suspended whilst necessary information is obtained.”

Greater Manchester’s local authorities were owed nearly £100m at the end of 2018/19 according to the latest government figures.

Manchester had the highest amount outstanding – some £27.4m – followed by Wigan and Salford (both £12.8m).

Rochdale (£5.1m), Bury (£5.5m) and Stockport (£5.8m) were owed the least.

Source

27 Sep 2019

64 Birmingham homes recovered in fraud crackdown

Dozens of Birmingham homes have been recovered and hundreds of housing applications cancelled due to fraud, a report has revealed.

It comes on the back of a warning the city council faces a £4m black hole by the end of the year if the homelessness crisis continues and the authority has to keep forking out to put families up in bed and breakfasts. In 2018/19 the council's corporate fraud team recovered 64 homes worth an estimated £6m in housing stock.

They also cancelled 212 housing applications prior to letting and stopped two Right to Buy applications.

The council's annual fraud report stated that homes were recovered when they were 'not being used as intended' such as when a false application had been made or the property had been illegally sub-let.

Council auditor Neil Farquharson said: "There are obvious social benefits in ensuring that only those with the greatest need are allocated social housing, but there is also a real financial saving from preventing and/or stopping social housing fraud, particularly in respect of providing temporary accommodation, and losing valuable housing stock through fraudulent Right to Buy applications."

The corporate fraud team also investigates fraud relating to its council tax reduction scheme and council tax exemptions. They made £559,534 worth of adjustments to council tax last year. Additionally they identified £858,202 worth of Housing Benefit overpayments.

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19 Sep 2019

Wolverhampton stops £700k of fraud in 4 months

Nine cases of tenancy fraud, worth around £695,000, were stopped by Wolverhampton Council’s counter-fraud team in four months.

Illegal sub-lettings of properties were uncovered along with fraudulent right to buy applications and social housing application fraud.

And fraud where the owner tries to pass on the property to a relative, or fails to hand over the keys, was also detected.

The team tackled the fraud between April and July this year, a report revealed.

A total of 150 instances of suspected fraud were investigated by the team – with council bosses promising to take action to recover all stolen money as part of a "zero-tolerance" policy.

It comes after the council was chosen to pilot a HMRC scheme to crack down on the crime.

The report to the council’s Audit and Risk Committee said: “The counter-fraud team is continuing to develop and lead in raising fraud awareness across the council and in promoting an anti-fraud culture. The team carries out investigations into areas of suspected or reported fraudulent activity.

“It also organises a series of council wide pro-active fraud activities, including the targeted testing of areas open to the potential of fraudulent activity.

"The council was selected by the Cabinet Office as one of only 10 local authorities to take part in a pilot National Fraud Initiative (NFI) exercise where HMRC data has been matched to the council’s data for the first time.

“HMRC hold information about household composition, household earnings and property ownership. A sample of matches were investigated with the majority relating to tenancy issues.

“The counter-fraud team has provided feedback to the Cabinet Office which has been used to help refine the matches and to ensure the maximum impact is achieved from the exercise.”

A spokesman for Wolverhampton Council said: “The city of Wolverhampton Council operates a zero-tolerance policy on fraud and will not hesitate to take action as appropriate. We are pleased to be a key partner in this National Fraud Initiative data matching exercise because, ultimately, fraud against the council is fraud against the hard-working taxpayers of Wolverhampton.”

They added that the figures quoted in the report are notional figures provided by the Cabinet Office who calculate the full cost of the loss of each property to the public.

A total of 66 frontline staff have since been trained to highlight anything suspicious.

A tenancy fraud e-learning course will be distributed to all employees.

An estimated £2.1 billion is lost each year across the country due to fraud.

Source

This result blows that £2.1bn out of the water. It's £2m in a year for just one local authority, and mostly for tenancy issues.

14 Feb 2019

More fraud to find, says Cornwall

Cornwall Council's fraud investigation team has helped with cases of benefit swindles worth more than £630,000.

Since April 2018 the fraud investigations team at County Hall has helped provide information to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 198 fraud cases which had an overpayment value of £636,086.

Further investigations saw the DWP raise fines worth more than £30,000 and 23 prosecutions.

The team also investigates council tax support fraud and investigated 32 cases which identified more than £40,000 in overpayments. These have resulted in 10 people being successfully prosecuted and in five cases penalties have been ordered of more than £4,000.

Tenancy fraud is another area of investigation for the team which had 62 referrals since April 2018 with 12 cases where keys were returned, four right-to-buy applications were withdrawn, two false successions were identified and stopped and two withdrawals from the homeless/Home Choice register.

Prosecution action is being instigated after the team found that someone was fraudulently using the bus pass of a dead person.

The team also investigated a case of the deaths of two pension recipients not being reported, resulting in overpayment of £9,856. Action is being taken to recover the debt.

Jason Pengilly, investigations manager at the council, told the audit committee that his team treats every report seriously and will investigate anything which is sent to them.

He was asked whether more could be recovered if there were more resources for the team.

Mr Pengilly told the committee: "The more we look for the more we find."

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31 Jan 2019

Benefit fraud & tenancy fraud in Cornwall

Cornwall Council’s fraud investigation team has helped with cases of benefit swindles worth more than £630,000.

Since April 2018 the fraud investigations team at County Hall has helped provide information to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 198 fraud cases which had an overpayment value of £636,086.

Further investigations saw the DWP raise fines worth more than £30,000 and 23 prosecutions.

The team also investigates council tax support fraud and investigated 32 cases which identified more than £40,000 in overpayments.

These have resulted in 10 people being successfully prosecuted and in five cases penalties have been ordered of more than £4,000.

Tenancy fraud is another area of investigation for the team which had 62 referrals since April 2018 with 12 cases where keys were returned, four right-to-buy applications were withdrawn, two false successions were identified and stopped and two withdrawals from the homeless/Home Choice register.

More