17/12/2004

Benefits fraud cut by over one billion pounds

Benefits fraud has been slashed by half, saving over £1 billion according to Government statistics published today.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reported exceeding a target to cut fraud and error in the main benefits by one third by March 2004.

Commenting on the success Anti Fraud Minister Chris Pond said: "Our tough action against fraud and error is paying off for the taxpayer and I'm delighted that we have reached this milestone.

"Since 1997 we have saved the equivalent of over £1 billion on what DWP would have paid out if we had not achieved these great results.

"These official figures show that we have cut fraud in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance by half. We have also exceeded our target to reduce fraud and error by 33 per cent by March 2004 - so far we have cut it by 37 per cent.

"This shows we are getting results in preventing, detecting and deterring fraud. But we're not complacent. We must maintain this hard work to achieve our next target - cutting both fraud and error by half by 2006.

The Minister called on people to contact the benefit fraud hotline, on 0800 854 440, if they suspect someone of committing fraud.

He equated fraudsters stealing from the public pocket and the saving of £1 billion as equivalent to 14,000 doctors, 32,000 teachers or 22,000 police officers.

The Minister added: "Our efforts in the future will focus on building on what we have achieved so far, having an effective criminal investigation structure for fraud and strong controls on day-to-day processing of benefit claims. Our strategy is designed to deliver more prevention and better detection and we will be testing further improvements in Yorkshire and the Humber and East Midlands from January onwards".

The estimated overpayment of Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance at March 2004 was recorded as 6.4%, which is the lowest ever recorded figure for loss in these benefits. Overpayment in 1997/1999 was put at 10.4% of expenditure.

Over the same period, fraud has gone down from 7.2% of spending to 3.1%.

(SP)

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