People who commit ‘living together’ benefit fraud are being warned they face tough new sanctions under the welfare reform bill, currently going through Parliament.
People who tell the DWP they are single parents to get Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance, but are actually secretly living with someone as husband and wife, cost the taxpayer nearly £100 million in overpaid benefits, making it one of the most frequently committed benefit frauds. Just ten recent cases have cost the taxpayer over £1 million.
Lord Freud, Welfare Reform Minister said:
Pretending you are a single parent to get benefits when you are actually living with a partner is stealing money from the people who genuinely need help. Sometimes these claims can be fraudulent from the outset, but often a person’s circumstances change gradually and they don’t tell the Department. Either way, it is a crime and one we are determined to put a stop to.
Universal Credit will simplify and automate the benefits system to make it less open to abuse and ensure this money is going to those who need it the most.
Ministers are also warning women that it is often they who face prosecution as the claims are invariably in their names. Despite their partners often encouraging the fraud, they often escape punishment.
Powers in the Welfare Reform Bill will introduce tougher penalties for both fraud and error:
- A minimum administrative penalty of £350, or 50% of the overpayment, whichever is higher, with four weeks loss of benefit
- Extended loss of benefit for offences which result in a conviction of up to 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks for a second offence and 3 years for a third offence
- An immediate 3 year loss of benefit for serious or organised benefit fraud or identity fraud
- A new £50 civil penalty in cases of claimant error which results in an overpayment as a result of negligence or failure.
Notes to Editors
‘Living together’ fraud figures from ‘Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: April 2009 to March 2010’:
- Incomes Support ‘Living together’ fraud = £65m
JSA ‘Living together’ fraud = £33m
For more details please see: http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd2/fem/fem_apr09_mar10.pdf