12/02/2004

Benefit fraud crackdown saves taxpayers £400m

A government crackdown against fraud and error has saved £400 million of taxpayers money, according official statistics released today.

The figures showed that overpayments in 2002/03 were £400 million less than they would have been if fraud and error had stayed at the same level as the baseline year of 1997/98.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said that it had reduced fraud by 29% - exceeding its initial target of cutting fraud and error by a quarter by April 2004. Last year, there were over 32,000 prosecutions and sanctions of fraudsters.

It has been estimated that around £2 billion is lost every year to benefit fraud across all forms of benefit. But the DWP said that the latest annual figures for the main two benefits, Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance, showed the government was on course to cut fraud and error by half by 2006.

Anti-Fraud Minister Chris Pond said: "The determined crackdown on fraud and error is paying off - and that's good news for taxpayers.

"Money stolen by benefit cheats could be spent on other services like hospitals and schools, so fraud is never a victimless crime.

"We must continue to work hard to achieve our targets but the results of our action over the last few years have been very encouraging.

"Benefit fraud investigators now have more powers than ever to tackle and punish benefit fraud and the ongoing campaign to deter fraudsters is showing results. Our efforts both to prevent fraud and detect it when it happens are paying off for the taxpayer."

(gmcg)

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