(2) what steps his Department is taking to tackle benefit fraud.
[holding answer 14 October 2008]: The Government are committed to paying the right benefits to the right people at the right time. As part of that commitment we have specific strategies in place to tackle both fraud and error.
We have a well defined and successful strategy for tackling benefit fraud based on preventing, detecting and deterring fraud. Strategy initiatives include professionally qualified investigators, a hard hitting media campaign and cross checking information on benefit claims against other data sources.
At 0.6 per cent. of benefit expenditure, fraud is at its lowest ever level. This is down from 2 per cent. in 2000-01. But we are not complacent and are introducing innovative new measures such as data matching with credit reference agencies and piloting voice risk analysis.
We are now applying the same drive and determination to tackle error. In January 2006, the Department created a task force with a specific aim of reducing official error in the most vulnerable benefits and has subsequently published and implemented its first ever error reduction strategy, published in January 2007. The strategy addresses both over and underpayments and is based on preventing new error from entering the system; ensuring that customers and staff comply with benefit rules and identifying and correcting existing errors.
The Department has also established a dedicated Benefit Simplification Unit to tackle complexity in the benefits system which is a major cause of error.
[holding answer 15 October 2008]: The information requested is not available. However we cross check our records with the Office for National Statistics on a weekly basis to capture information on deaths recorded with the local registrars so benefit payments can be stopped immediately in such cases.