Headlines: June 16th, 1999

Housing benefit and prescription fraud are being targeted as the Department for Social Security and the NHS develop their anti fraud strategies.

It is estimated that some 900 million pounds is lost through housing benefit fraud each year. One of the principal reasons for fraud is the complexity of housing benefit and there has been no move yet to simplify the system and so limit the scope for fraud. The DSS has however picked up the Audit Commission criticism that local councils rarely prosecute when fraud is detected.

All 32 Scottish local councils are being invited to take part in a pilot scheme which will allow them to use the services of the Benefits Agency Central Support Unit, Scotland, to prepare fraud cases for prosecution. A budget of 100 million pounds has been provided to fund the pilot. The pilot aims to identify current weaknesses in council handling of prosecution cases, and to encourage closer working between the DSS and local councils. A similar pilot was launched in England at the end of last year.

Prescription fraud amounts to about 100 million pounds annually and of this the use of fraudulent or counterfeit prescription forms accounts for about 11 million pounds. In order to limit this fraud avenue, a scheme has been introduced to reward pharmacy and appliance contractors who report fraudulent prescriptions. Although rewards are modest for individual prescriptions, where the information leads to detection or prevention of fraud, the maximum reward payment is 10 thousand pounds.