Headlines: December 20th, 2000

Tough new powers to withdraw benefits from persistent benefit cheats and investigate fraudsters have been presented to Parliament. The DSS loses at least £2 billion a year through fraud. The Public Accounts Committee estimates that social security fraud is costing the taxpayer up to 4 billion pounds a year. This is equivalent to 2 p on Income Tax.The new powers will help achieve the government’s target of reducing fraud and error in Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance by 25% by 2004 and 50% by 2006.

The Social Security Fraud Bill will give powers to withdraw or reduce benefit for people convicted twice of a benefit offence within the space of three years. It will also give powers to require information from private and public sector organisations about suspected benefit fraud and improve the speed and efficiency of the flow of information between DSS and local councils. Employers who collude in benefit fraud are also a target of the Bill which will introduce the option of a swift civil penalty as an alternative to court. There are also measures to counter organised crime with their weapons of multiple bank accounts, multiple identities and multiple addresses.

In May 2000 the Audit Commission revealed a powerful new technique for cross-checking data. It has used the technique to uncover 41 million pounds worth of fraud in local authorities and other public bodies.