Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore has called on local councils, housing associations and the wider public sector to take action on the findings and save even more money.
The Cabinet Office’s scheme identified and prevented fraud, overpayments and errors amounting to £198 million in England from April 2014 to March 2016. The highest value categories identified were pension fraud and overpayments, followed by welfare benefit fraud and overpayments.
The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) works by cross-referencing an extensive range of data from almost 1,300 organisations from across the UK. This can highlight discrepancies, for instance identifying that a person is listed as working while also receiving benefits and not declaring any income. The relevant organisation can then investigate and amend or stop benefit payments.
The NFI in 2014 to 2016 enabled 54 properties to be recovered for social housing; 52 employees were dismissed or asked to resign because they had no right to work in the UK; and 23,063 blue badges were cancelled. Identifying the misuse of these public services brings benefits to the taxpayer as well as boosting organisations’ budgets.
Chris Skidmore, Cabinet Office Minister, said:
Many public sector organisations have limited capacity to investigate fraud leaving them vulnerable to risks of overpayments and fraudulent claims. I would like to see councils and other public sector organisations take full advantage of the National Fraud Initiative. By working together and maximising the benefits of the exercise we could save the taxpayer millions more over the coming years. We must identify fraudulent individuals, safeguard taxpayers’ money and protect vital public services.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council supports the initiative and has benefitted from taking part. Council Leader Dave Conway said:
We are determined to tackle those who defraud the system, cheating the vast majority of law-abiding people who pay their way. The NFI means we can work with other bodies across the public sector, both locally and nationally, on new ways to tackle the risk of fraud and error. By working in smarter ways to tackle fraudsters, we are able to better maximise council resources and protect residents.