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Social Security Benefits: Fraud

Volume 479: debated on Monday 29 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the number of people who committed benefit fraud in each of the last 10 years; (185883)

(2) what estimate he has made of (a) the value of benefit fraud and (b) the amount recoverable from such fraud in each of the last 10 years;

(3) what estimate he has made of (a) the number of people involved in benefit fraud and (b) the value of such fraud in each (i) region, (ii) local authority and (iii) constituency in the latest period for which figures are available.

While the Department produces estimates of the amount of money lost through fraud, estimates are not available as to how many individuals might commit benefit fraud in any given period.

The following table shows the Department's estimates of fraud across all benefits. This information is not available broken down by region, local authority and constituency.

Global estimate of fraud across all benefits

Value of benefit fraud (£ billion)

2000-01

2.2

2001-02

2.0

2002-03

2.0

2003-04

1.0

2004-05

0.9

2005-06

0.8

2006-07

0.8

Notes:

1. Comparable information is not available prior to 2000-01

2. There have been methodological changes, and new measurement exercises at various times.

In order for an overpayment to be recoverable it must be demonstrated that the customer failed to report a material fact. This means that all overpayments resulting from fraud are recoverable.

The following table shows the amount of recoverable overpayments identified during fraud investigations since 1997-98. However, it should be noted that the information provided does not include fraud overpayments for local authority administered benefits, for which information is not available.

Amount of recoverable fraud overpayments in DWP administered benefits

£ million

1997-98

129

1998-99

149

1999-2000

105

2000-01

128

2001-02

123

2002-03

124

2003-04

134

2004-05

137

2005-06

144

2006-07

106

Note:

Figures rounded to the nearest £1 million.

Source:

Fraud information by Sector.

The reduction in the amount recorded as recovered in 2006-07 was largely as a result of the introduction of customer compliance in April 2006. Customer compliance deals with low level fraud and customer error allowing the criminal compliance teams to focus on the more serious and complex fraud cases which are likely to result in a criminal sanction. The focus of customer compliance on low level fraud allows for earlier intervention resulting in a shorter period of overpayment and smaller cash value.