A new attack has been launched on benefit fraud which is running at 1.3 billion pounds annually. This is 8.4 per cent of expenditure and represents 80 pounds for each UK household.The latest weapon to be brought into the campaign is a series of three 40-second TV commercials. They portray typical examples of fraud such as a dole cheat earning cash in hand whilst claiming benefit and playing on the sympathy of friends to cadge free drinks.
An Expert Help Team has also been set up to help councils crack down on fraud. It is made up from Housing Benefit experts from top performing councils, the Department of Social Security, Improvement and Development Agency, and consultants from Cap Gemini and Ernst & Young. The team will work with a council for about a month.
Plans have also been announced to fund the training of 900 new local Housing Benefit fraud investigators.
Other measures being taken to reduce fraud include the development of a new simplified form for claiming the benefit, remote access terminals for nearly all councils which will cut out the bureaucracy of nearly 10 million pieces of paper and more generous financial rewards for local authorities who prevent fraud from entering the system. A fraud hotline pilot scheme was launched in January and a national roll out is planned for later in the year.
A report by the National Audit Office shows that in the year ending March 2000, benefit fraud was reduced by some 60 million pounds. Compared to the 1998 baseline this is a 6.4 per cent reduction. The targets are to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2002 and a 50 percent reduction by 2006.