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Housing Benefit: Fraud

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how much it cost to establish the telephone hotline for reporting suspected cases of housing benefit fraud; and what annual expenditure his Department incurs in operating the service; (249020)

(2) how many of the cases of suspected housing benefit fraud reported via the online form or telephone hotline have led to a conviction in each month of the last two years;

(3) how many and what proportion of reports submitted by telephone and online have correctly identified individuals committing housing benefit fraud in each month of the last two years;

(4) how many people have used the telephone hotline for reporting housing benefit fraud in each month of the last two years;

(5) how many people have used the online form for reporting individuals committing housing benefit fraud in each month of the last two years.

The National Benefit Fraud Hotline was set up in August 1996. It was extended to include housing benefit fraud referrals in September 2003, information on the costs of extending the service for housing benefit fraud are not available.

The annual expenditure incurred in operating the National Benefit Fraud Hotline for 2007-08 is in the following table.

2007-08 spend

£000

Staff costs

904

Non staff costs

345

Vertex call centre1

338

Total

1,587

1 The Preston contact centre is dedicated to handling National Benefit Fraud Hotline calls with additional support from Vertex. Vertex is the outsourced provider of the out of hours telephone contact centre service. Vertex costs are included in the figures.

Notes:

1. The operational costs of administering the National Benefit Fraud Hotline include the costs of administering the housing benefit fraud service. These costs cannot be separated.

2. The table contains directly attributable costs of the National Benefit Fraud Hotline; however there are further costs across DWP that cannot be separately identified, namely:

Actual telephone call costs that cannot be separated from overall DWP Corporate IT costs

Overflow work taken on by other sites at Grimsby Europarc and Telford Plaza

Follow on costs such as the cost of pursuing prosecutions.

3. The National Benefit Fraud Hotline started to do tax evasion work in November/December 2007 and tax evasion costs are included for four months of 2007-08.

Source:

Jobcentre Plus Finance Directorate using DWP financial systems

Information regarding referrals made to the National Benefit Fraud Hotline or online is not available by benefit type. Therefore, it is not possible to provide specific information on the outcomes of housing benefit fraud referrals received from either the hotline or online.

Information on the total number of housing benefit referrals from all sources accepted for investigation, prosecutions and convictions for the last two financial years is in the following table.

2005-06

2006-07

Referrals accepted for investigation

190,898

166,979

Prosecutions

7,717

5,885

Convictions

6,234

5,734

Source:

Local authority Housing Benefit administrative returns