Press release

Cheats warned of benefit fraud blitz

Benefit cheats are being warned today that a new Mobile Regional Taskforce to combat fraud will be visiting their area.

Benefit cheats are being warned today that a new Mobile Regional Taskforce to combat fraud will be visiting their area.  This new team will target all high risk postcodes across the country re-examining claims for benefits and Tax Credits.

The Taskforce is the latest crack-down on benefit fraud by the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC alongside local authorities, and cheats are being urged to admit their crimes and pay back the money before they get a knock on the door.

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said:

The new Taskforce is our latest weapon in tackling welfare fraud on the front line. We are sending a clear warning that if you are fiddling the system, you will be caught. Welfare fraud is a crime and takes money away from the most vulnerable.

People who are receiving the correct benefits and Tax Credits have absolutely nothing to fear. But if people have deliberately not told us of a change in circumstances, they should do so now, before the team comes knocking at their door.

Alongside the Taskforce we are bringing in the Universal Credit which will simplify and automate the benefits system. This will make it much easier to catch people who make false claims.

People who tell the Department about a change in their circumstances before they are found out by the Taskforce will have to repay the money they owe, and, depending on the seriousness of their action, may face an additional punishment. Anyone who doesn’t take this opportunity and is found by the Taskforce to be committing welfare fraud could be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned.

David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury said:

This government will not tolerate money which is meant for those in genuine need being siphoned off into the pockets of cheats and fraudsters.

The new taskforce delivers on our commitment to tackle benefit fraud and together with the extra £917 million we have re-invested in HMRC sends a very clear message.

The Taskforce will start on 25 of July in the Perry Barr and Kingstanding area of Birmingham.  People can also report a cheat on the National Benefit Fraud Hotline number 0800 854 440 or online via: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/benefit-thieves

This new measure is set out alongside other measures in the fraud and error strategy announced at the end of last year by DWP and HMRC that will reduce annual welfare fraud and error overpayments by one quarter (£1.4 billion) by March 2015 through:

  • Launching a single fraud investigation service
  • Accessing more data and using private sector analytical techniques
  • Increased asset seizure
  • A new tougher one-strike, two-strike and three-strike rules, including three years for people with multiple convictions
  • Money owed deducted directly through PAYE
  • Case-cleaning over 1 million claims to remove official or customer error

Universal Credit, which will replace income-related support from 2013, will simplify the benefit system making it even harder for fraud and error to enter and making the benefit system far easier to administer.

Notes to Editors

  • The Mobile Regional Taskforce will scrutinise the claims of a high proportion of current benefit customers within a specific geographical location, regardless of age, gender, ethnic make-up, type of benefit recipient, income, disability breakdown or family status.
  • The Taskforce will begin in Birmingham’s B44 postcode area on 25th July 2011. A full roll out across the country will commence in the autumn.

In October 2010 the Cabinet Office established the Counter Fraud Taskforce, which is chaired by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office.  It is made up of senior officials from government and private sector with expertise in tackling fraud, error and debt.  Officials from the National Fraud Authority (an Executive Agency of the Home Office) provide the secretariat to the taskforce.

This Taskforce has overseen eight pilots in different Government departments using the latest technology to tackle fraud in the public sector.  Some of these have made immediate savings:

  • HMRC: £256 million over 4 years by using data analytical techniques to screen tax credit applications before payments are made
  • HMRC: £750 million over 2 years using credit reference agency data to detect undisclosed partners
  • DWP:  £490 million over 4 years using credit reference agency data to detect undisclosed partners
  • HMG: £264 million on payments to suppliers made in 2009/10, using analytical techniques to detect overpayments through fraud or error. DfT pilot saved £0.5m and the Home office saved £4m using these techniques.

The Cabinet Office Taskforce has completed the first phase of its work and published its interim report on 8 June 2011. The report is available here: [http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/eliminating-public-sector-fraud1.pdf](http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/eliminating-public-sector-fraud1.pdf)

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