UK – New measures to protect the integrity of the benefits system
The government has announced new rules to deter claimants from committing benefit fraud, and ensure stolen money is returned.
On top of any fine or custodial sentence handed out by the courts, new measures include:
- up to 40% of benefits may be taken to repay stolen cash – so the money is returned quicker than it would be under the current rules
- the amount that can be deducted directly from pay packets to recover fraudulent overpayments increased to 40%
- larger penalties – the maximum administrative penalty a fraudster can receive will rise from £2,000 to £5,000
- bailiffs used to confiscate high-value possessions from convicted benefit cheats
- checking Jobseeker’s Allowance claims against PAYE reported in real time to highlight and catch cheats with jobs
Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:
These new measures will ensure the welfare safety net helps families who want to work hard and play by the rules, not the minority who want to abuse the benefits system.
Action already taken to counter the estimated £1.2 billion lost in benefit fraud in 2012/13 includes:
- investigators are making greater use of Proceeds of Crime Act powers
- extended loss of benefit for offences which result in a conviction of 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 organised benefit fraud or identity fraud
- a £50 civil penalty in cases where claimants negligently give incorrect information on their claim or fail to report a change in circumstances which results in an overpayment
Read the Fraud and Error in the benefit system: 2012/13 estimates