Owen Jones SLAMS benefit fraud punishments
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The DWP deals with a number of benefits including Universal Credit, PIP and Pension Credit. It also administers vital payments such as the state pension. These benefits and payments are received by millions of people right across the country. Thankfully, the vast majority of people claim benefits or receive payments honestly. However, unfortunately, there are some instances where a person might be receiving a sum to which they are not actually entitled. Understandably, this can be a problem, and is ultimately unfair on the people who do receive a DWP sum in an honest way.
As a result, the DWP is taking action and is looking to hunt down instances of benefit fraud to make the system work in a better way.
The Government defines benefit fraud as a person claiming benefits they are not entitled to on purpose. This could occur when a person provides false information, or if they do not report a change in their circumstances.
When investigating benefit fraud, understandably, there will be a number of signs which could point the DWP towards suspicious activity.
In total, there are seven different types of overpayments which the DWP is keeping an eye out for.
The first is a mistake which is made by the claimant such as a non-disclosure of circumstances of an incomplete form. This is followed by deliberate fraud which is made by the claimant – which could be failing to disclose a material fact, or deliberate misrepresentation.
A third type of overpayment involves interim and advance payments, which include short term benefit advances which cannot be recovered from the benefit for which they were paid.
Universal Credit recoverable hardship payments can also be classed as an overpayment for recovery purposes. This is the case if recovery can no longer be taken from the benefit that was in place at the time of payment.
Two other types of overpayments the DWP looks for are overpayments due to late award of other benefit or income, and overpayments due to the way in which the Direct Payment banking system operates.
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Finally, there is official error. However, this only applies to Universal Credit and contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance claims made on or after April 29, 2013.
If someone is suspected of benefit fraud, they can expect to be contacted by the DWP, or HMRC if it is relevant, and potentially even their local authority.
A benefit may be stopped while a person is investigated. Individuals can expect to receive a letter if this is the case.
People could also be visited by Fraud Investigation Officers, or asked to attend an interview to speak about their claim, known as an interview under caution.
These officers have the responsibility of gathering facts about a person’s case, at which point they will go on to decide whether or not they will take the case further.
There are a number of types of evidence which can be collected by investigators, including financial data such as bank statements.
These can help to paint a picture of a person’s life, their spending habits, and whether these adhere to the type of claim they are making for benefits.
Other forms of evidence include correspondence, audio recordings, photographs or videos, interviews, and inspector reports from surveillance activities.
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The DWP may even utilise a person’s social media to check whether their claim matches up with the life they portray online.
If it is found someone commits or has attempted to commit fraud, then one or more of the following could happen:
- A person is told to pay back the overpaid money
- A person may be taken to court or asked to pay a penalty – between £350 and £5,000
- A person may see their benefits reduced stopped
The Government concluded: “Only certain benefits can be reduced or stopped. These are called ‘sanctionable benefits’.
“But if you commit fraud on a benefit that cannot be reduced or stopped, your other benefits can be reduced instead.”
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