Showing posts with label national housing benefit fraud totals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label national housing benefit fraud totals. Show all posts

7 Sep 2018

£647m seized in housing benefit fraud crackdown

A massive crackdown on fraud and blunders in the Housing Benefit system has netted record savings for taxpayers, new figures revealed tonight as it emerged one claimant stole the identity of a dead man to receive payments.

A total of £175m was recovered by the DWP in the first three months of this year.

It was the biggest haul collected by the Whitehall department in a three month period.

Overall, more than £647million was recovered after investigations into fraudulent and incorrect Housing Benefit claims during the 2017/18 financial year.

Officials said that failure to declare correct earnings and employment details was the biggest cause of loss in the Housing Benefit system.

Tory Work and Pensions Esther McVey said: “We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits, as they divert funds away from people in need. We are working closely with local authorities to address Housing Benefit fraud and error, and developing new measures that can be used to help prevent it.”

Last year, her department was given an £82million fund from the Treasury for tackling Housing Benefit fraud and error.

The fund helped was used to set up a Housing Benefit taskforce, provide new computer systems for identifying fraud and improve co-operation between local authorities to root out benefit cheats.

Officials released details of recent cases uncovered in the crackdown. They included:

Brian Matthews, 51, from Cornwall, who made false claims for Housing Benefit and a range of disability support handouts under numerous identities. For one set of claims, he stole the identity of a dead man. He manipulated medical evidence to claim that he had “irreversible spinal damage”.

Following a DWP investigation, he admitted that his condition was no more serious than lower back pain. The case resulted in a loss to the taxpayer of more than £245,000. Matthews was given a 42 and a half month sentence by Truro Crown Court, and ordered to repay the defrauded amount.

Adele Ledward, 36, of Stockport falsely claimed more than £58,000 in Housing Benefit by posing as a struggling, single parent living alone. An investigation found she had been living with a partner who was a successful businessman. While claiming benefits Ledward went on several holidays with her partner. She pleaded guilty to fraud and was ordered to repay the cash and was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence.

Sahin Lim, 60, of Glasgow fraudulent claimed a series of means-tested hand-out including more £34,000 in Housing Benefit. An investigation revealed Lim had travelled extensively while claiming the cash, taking more than 1,000 flights to visit over 117 countries. He had more than £500,000 deposited in various undisclosed bank accounts. Lim was found guilty of benefit fraud and sentenced to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay the overpaid funds.

John O’Connell, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group, said: "Taxpayers will be very encouraged to see that the DWP is cracking down on benefit fraud.

"Not only is the money needed elsewhere, but the injustice of people cheating a system designed to help the most vulnerable is very keenly felt.

"Alongside these technical steps, we hope that people will act responsibly and not take money that doesn’t belong to them and is needed to help those who deserve support."


16 Nov 2017

Tenancy fraud in north east England

Northumberland County Council is leading the way on tenancy fraud in the region, following the establishment of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum (NE-TFF) earlier this year. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Set up by the county council's corporate fraud team, the forum membership includes registered social landlords and local authorities from across the North East.

To raise awareness of tenancy fraud, the NE-TFF is campaigning across the region this week as part of International Fraud Awareness Week and will cover areas including abandonment, subletting and misrepresentation. The council’s fraud team are encouraging residents to report any suspected fraudulent behaviour and will investigate any reports made.

It is estimated that tenancy fraud costs the country more than £50million a year, leaving families who are in desperate need of secure and affordable housing in temporary accommodation.

This is a huge underestimate - see previous post.

The awareness week will focus around four key themes:
  • Abandonment of properties by tenants which can lead to squatting and vandalism of properties. The team have been working alongside housing officers since April 2014 and has successfully recovered 18 properties from abandonment, which are now being used as social housing;
  • False applications for social properties, including false homeless applications;
  • Right to Buy fraud, which includes providing false information on Right to Buy or Right to Acquire applications and buying a property through a third party. In the past 12 months, Northumberland County Council has withdrawn 30 Right to Buy applications, further saving £1.2million in discounts;
  • Unlawful subletting of properties, where a tenant rents out their home without the knowledge or permission of the landlord.
New legislation has given investigators powers to obtain more information when investigating tenancy fraud to ensure fraudsters are caught and made accountable for their actions.

Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, said: "International Fraud Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness across the county and the region on tenancy fraud.

"Tenancy fraud can lead to anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods and leaves families who are in desperate need of housing on the waiting list, and in temporary accommodation. Cracking down on tenancy fraud will undoubtedly benefit many families across the county."

10 Jul 2017

Even the official benefit fraud numbers are getting worse

Taxpayers have been robbed of a staggering £2.4 billion in the past year in welfare benefits through fraud and in payments made in error by officials.

The figure is more than enough to give all public sector workers an extra 1% pay rise at a time when there is pressure to end the austerity cap on their wages.

Total overpayments by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2016-17 were £3.5 billion, according to figures released last week. Officials clawed back £1.1 billion but that still left £2.4 billion lost to fraud and incompetence. Senior politicians blamed a ‘farcical’ computer system for the scandal and called on Ministers to ‘get a grip’ of the scandal.

Fraud alone totalled £2 billion before money was recovered – up by £400 million on the previous year.

The 25% rise comes despite a dedicated anti-fraud unit being set up last year on the instructions of former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The remaining £1.5 billion was wrongly paid out because of clerical errors.

Labour MP Frank Field, the Work and Pensions Committee chairman, said: ‘They have no idea how much money they are losing. I believe the real figure could be even higher.’ He claimed that the loss of thousands of jobs at the DWP meant that it ‘simply does not have the staff any more to check up on claimants to see if they are genuine. The farcical computerisation of the benefits system has been a gift to fraudsters and gangs who know how to play the system.’

Dame Margaret Hodge, a former chairman of Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘It is an absolute scandal that at a time when they are cutting benefits and services, the Government is throwing billions of pounds away. Ministers need to get a grip.’

In one extraordinary case, one benefits claimant who was given an extra £546,000 due to a computer error was granted 959 years to pay it back.

The DWP report said untimely and inaccurate reporting of income and earnings was the largest cause of fraud and error, which amounted to 2% of all benefits payments last year.

Whitehall sources said £1.5 billion in housing benefit wrongly paid out by councils accounted for 40% of overpayments. Ministers hope a new digital system, Universal Credit, will cut fraud by linking benefit claims to PAYE data.

The DWP said: ‘We are committed to tackling fraud and error in the benefits system.’


Of course the real benefit fraud losses are far higher.

13 Jun 2017

National benefit fraud totals?

This is the BBC's soothing take on benefit fraud. They are essentially expounding the government's own numbers. By comparison with 2012-13, note how the biggest single item, housing benefit fraud, has shot up, even on the government's estimates. It remains true the the government is not exactly going out ruthlessly to identify benefit fraud. If that was what it wanted to do, it would do an in depth study in one locality and then scale up its national estimates based on that.

Better to let sleeping dogs lie than court political accusations of failure.

Let's start with a question.

What percentage of benefit payments do you think is lost to fraud?

A survey in 2013 by Ipsos Mori suggested people believed that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits was fraudulently claimed.

What do you think - too high, too low? Want to know the real answer? It's £1.10 in every £100.

The figure is an estimate from an official government document, from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), published last December and refers to the financial year 2015-16.

The figure may well be a lot less than you thought, but it's still a lot of money. In 2015-16, total spending on benefits was £172.3bn, which means that £1.9bn was fraudulently claimed.

The fraud rate - 1.1% - rose from 0.8% in 2014-15, and now stands at the highest recorded rate. That may be because more people are "at it", but probably not.

After the end of the 2014-15 financial year, officials changed their methodology, which has resulted in more overpayments being attributed to fraud rather than claimant error.

The DWP has looked at five benefits in particular - universal credit (UC), housing benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA), jobseeker's allowance (JSA) and pension credit.

They calculated that the largest fraud in 2015-16 - totalling about £1bn - was in the housing benefit system. These fraudulent claims amounted to 4.1% of the total paid out in housing benefit. (But some of the figures are huge - see for instance Southwark.)

In fact, the recalculation carried out recently has led officials to believe that fraud is on the rise in housing benefit, ESA and pension credit, but falling among claimants of JSA.

In UC - which sees six benefits rolled into one monthly payment - the statistics are less certain as there are fewer claimants and the benefit hasn't been fully rolled out yet. But officials believe that fraud in UC is less than on JSA.

Honest mistakes?

Fraud payments are part of a wider category - benefit overpayment - which also includes honest errors by claimants and mistakes by officials.

The total overpayment in 2015-16 was £3.3bn, about 1.9% of all benefit payments.

But bear in mind that not all of that is lost - the department does recoup some of it and £1bn was repaid to the Treasury last year, which still means that more than £2bn was lost.

The DWP's inability to reduce fraud and error to much lower levels led the National Audit Office to chastise the department last summer, "qualifying its audit opinion" in official speak. But the DWP's accounts - and those of its predecessor departments - have been similarly berated every year since 1988-89.


One final point - while some people are being paid too much, others are receiving too little. The amount underpaid to benefit claimants in 2015-16 was £1.7bn, or 1% of total expenditure, the highest recorded rate. Most of it was due to errors by the claimant (£600m) with the other £400m due to mistakes by officials.

So in 2015-16, the government overpaid benefits to the tune of £3.3bn, of which £1bn was recouped, while claimants were underpaid £1.7bn.

It all means the Treasury was £600m down due to fraud and error in the benefits system.

Well that's the BBC's establishment take!

29 May 2017

West Norfolk targets housing benefit fraud

West Norfolk council has now employed a new member of staff has been recruited to specifically investigate erroneous and fraudulent Housing Benefit claims.

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates fraud overpayments to make up 4.6pc of councils’ housing benefit expenditure for 2016/17.

The total Housing Benefit expenditure for West Norfolk for last year was just over £39m, so if the level of fraud was 4.6pc this would equate to a loss of approximately £1.8m.

Now extra funding has been made available by the Department of Work and Pensions, to enable local authorities to take on extra staff to review claims for fraud and error and to put these right.

The work will focus on checking earnings details against those held on HMRC database.

West Norfolk council leader Brian Long said:
Housing Benefit fraud is a big issue across the country, which is why funding has been made available to us to tackle it. I am sure that for most people it is a genuine mistake and they have simply forgotten to notify us of a change in their circumstances, rather than a serious attempt to commit fraud. However, if that means they are claiming money they are not entitled to, then we need to ensure those errors are corrected and that the money is paid back.

Claimants whose earnings details do not match will be contacted and given an opportunity to put the matter right. If they do not, then further action may be taken. People can notify us easily about any changes in their circumstances by going online at and completing the online form under benefits change of circumstances.
The new member of staff is on a 12 month temporary contract funded by the Department of Work and Pensions with the sole purpose of checking earnings details against HMRC records.

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, benefit fraud is a criminal offence and is treated differently to benefit overpayments. One example is deliberately failing to tell the benefit office about your true financial circumstances when you claimed the benefit.