The Government has launched yet another campaign to clamp down on fraudulent benefit claims, supposedly costing the taxpayer an estimated £16 million a year.
Voters are led to believe by politicians and the media that there is a ‘cheat’ and ‘scrounger’ lurking on every street, but the facts say otherwise.
The government and press have turned society against itself with relentless stories of the ‘fake’ or ‘cheat’ lurking in every neighbourhood. People have become amateur sleuths and doctors, who feel it is their civic duty to report their neighbour for benefit fraud without any solid evidence.
In many people’s minds, their hard-earned taxes gives them the right – with full backing from the government – to report people they think are claiming benefits fraudulently, even if they have no real evidence. Jealousy and selfishness from people who think their neighbour (perhaps even a friend) is getting something they aren’t, or don’t deserve?
The debate turns into a discussion about the deserving and undeserving poor, marked by a cultural shift of divide and rule and encouraged by a socially divisive government with little thought for the impact upon the poor and disabled.
We all accept that benefit fraud is a crime that should be dealt with accordingly. However, benefits fraud accounts for just 0.7% of the entire welfare budget. Claimant and DWP Error accounts for 1.4% of the benefit budget.
0.9% is underpaid and more than 6% remains completely unclaimed, but then you won’t read that in the press.
If the government’s interest is fairness and accuracy, then it would do better to tackle error and under-claiming. Although I’ve yet to see government advertising campaigns saying: “Health getting worse? Let us know – you might be eligible for more benefits”.
Benefit fraud investigators are waiting for (potentially malicious) calls from members of the public to decide who to investigate. Risk-profiling, on the other hand, means deciding to investigate someone because they are part of a high-risk group, which can be more accurate and is less affected by spurious or unfounded accusations.
Of concern is not just whether this is the best way to tackle benefit fraud, but also the culture of hate and suspicion it creates. Public perception is that benefit fraud is sky-high and this wrongly motivates people into reporting claimants.
Fraud investigators are receiving several thousands of accusations of benefit fraud from members of the public, and yet the vast majority are proven to be false or incorrect.
The culture of hatred and demonisation of benefit claimants is perpetuating high volumes of false accusations. It is an outrage that taxpayers are being led to believe a high percentage of benefit claims are fraudulent.
Both myself and Welfare Weekly responded by making Freedom of Information Requests to the DWP. What we found out left us speechless and infuriated.
The figures we obtained bring into question the government’s policy of encouraging members of the public to report alleged benefit fraud, through new advertising campaigns on TV and social networks.
Only 7.34% of benefit fraud cases reported by members of the public in the last year were substantiated by investigators, the remainder being incorrect or rejected due to a lack of evidence.
While investigators review allegations, those reported face potential benefit delays and may be forced to turn to food banks. The DWP says benefit sanctioning as a result of a malicious allegation is “unlikely to occur”.
DWP also admit they don’t record how many people make malicious allegations – mainly due to the anonymity they provide accusers – and take no action (legal or otherwise\ against those who do.
“We are unable to confirm the number of claimants who have been incorrectly reported to be claiming benefits fraudulently, and who have their benefit payments docked or suspended as a result of this information, because this information is not recorded.
“However an incident of this nature would be very unlikely to occur. The Department receives information from a number of sources that might warrant an investigation into a customer’s entitlement to benefit. This includes those from members of the public both anonymously and named.
“The referral management and investigation of benefit fraud process is robust and greatest of care is taken to corroborate the information to ensure we are directing our resources appropriately.
“When an investigation concludes the alleged fraud is unsubstantiated the investigation is closed with no further action. This can occur at any stage of the investigation and judgement of this is on a case by case basis and influenced only on the basis of established facts, gathered through these processes. This does not necessarily imply this as a malicious allegation.
“Without the facility to report benefit fraud anonymously there is a risk that the public may be deterred from providing valuable intelligence that assists in protecting the public purse.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 20 Nov 2014
The numbers speak for themselves: Under ‘Adequacy of safety-net benefits’, EVERY SINGLE INCOME GROUP has lost out. While others have suffered a great percentage drop, single working-age people remain the least able to make ends meet.
“How much money do you need for an adequate standard of living?”
That is the question posed every year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – and every year the organisation calculates how much people have to earn – taking into account their family circumstances, the changing cost of these essentials and changes to the tax and benefit system – to reach this benchmark.
A lone parent with one child now needs to earn more than £27,100 per year – up from £12,000 in 2008. A couple with two children need to earn more than £20,200 each, compared to £13,900 each in 2008. Single working-age people must now earn more…
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Around three-quarters of the way through tonight’s Question Time, I was ready to believe the BBC had pulled a fast one on us and we weren’t going to see Iain Duncan Smith get the well-deserved comeuppance that he has managed to avoid for so long in Parliament and media interviews.
There was plausible deniability for the BBC – the Isis crisis that has blown up in Iraq is extremely topical and feeds into nationwide feeling about the possibility of Britain going to war again in the Middle East. The debate on extremism in Birmingham schools is similarly of public interest – to a great degree because it caused an argument between Tory cabinet ministers. Those are big issues at the moment and the BBC…
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Hello, I thought I would let you know about various issues we have been having with the benefit system.
I am a 48-year-old who is very unwell. I suffer from Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. It’s a cross between M.E and M.S and causes terrible pain all over my body. My mobility is very poor and I have had several operations on [my] stomach due to severe problems. I also suffer from I.B.S and have seizures.
Things have become so bad that my husband has had to give up work to care for me, because I cannot be left on my own for any length of time. I need help in doing most things.
I was called in for a medical [assessment] three years ago, which was cancelled twice as they did not have the staff. Once we were not told it was cancelled until we had got there. I got my Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), but then about eighteen months ago I was called in for yet another assessment.
I went to the Luton office as instructed to do so. On arrival, I was then told I would have to go as I was in my wheelchair and that if there was a fire I would not be able to get out of the building. The medical [assessment] office was on the top floor. When I was asked what I should do, and could they put something in writing to say I had attended, I was ‘tutted’ at and told to wait.
In all I was kept waiting for twenty minutes, to which I pointed out [that] they could have done some of my assessment in that time. I was advised to go home [and that] it had been noted I had attended, even though they would not give me anything there and then in writing. I would be sent another appointment and advice on what to do next.
Three days later a letter arrived giving me another appointment, but again is was for the same place. I called and explained [what had happened previously] and was told this was an error and not to go – another appointment would be sent.
Another letter arrived, but again stating to go back to the Luton office. It was a nightmare and caused a lot of upset and stress. In the end, a month later, I was sent an appointment to go to another office twenty miles away. I am pleased to say my claim was upheld.
But, I am sorry to say, that was not the last issue we have had. Last year I got another form to fill in for my ESA. My husband and I eventually [completed] the form and sent it off by recorded post (I have learnt not to send anything that cannot be traced). After two months I had [still] not heard anything, so I called them to find out what was going on. I was told they had received all my paperwork on July 18th 2013 and [that] I would hear back within the next two months. Again I waited [but] by end of October [I had still not] heard anything, so I called [them] again to be told they could not find anything. I was very upset, and yes angry, about this and pointed out that I had already been told it had been received on July 18th, All of a sudden it was found. I was told should hear [something] by the new year. [To date] I have had nothing back from them and as I am still getting my ESA I have [decided] not to rock the boat. I just hope no news is good news and [that] I carry on getting my benefits.
I was advised whilst all this was ongoing, that my husband was entitled to a little bit of Income Support. We applied, received a letter saying he would get about £8 a week paid monthly and advised to check to see if he was entitled to any back-pay. We did this and wish we had not. It led to a number of phone calls from the manager of Luton Jobcentre asking why we had passed things on to my MP. I told her I had done this as I was not getting anywhere in getting the money paid to my husband, which we had been told he was entitled too.
After a couple of days Alan [received] a payment but was told that there was no back pay. Again, I questioned this. Another very nasty call from Luton Job Centre, the manager again told us that we had caused a problem, to which I asked why, and got no proper answer.
She then said she was going to stop the income support that was going to Alan. I asked why and could she do that? To which she said she could, and would do it, and if we wanted to do anything about it we would have to stop our ESA claim and put in a joint claim for Income support, but it could take up to sixteen weeks and whilst it was being looked in to we would get no money. Well,.. of course we cannot do that, so we are losing out on the small amount of income support we should and did get for a short time. This seems very unfair. If we are entitled then we should get it, surely?
I dread a brown envelope coming through the door and am desperate and very worried about the changeover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It’s already causing worry, stress and sleepless nights.
I do not know what we will do if it is stopped for any reason as I cannot go to work. I did not choose this, the [medical[ conditions chose me. I had a good job in a company I loved working for and I did not want to go on benefits.
Like many people, I am made to feel unworthy and nothing but a scrounger.
Sorry this is all a bit long-winded, but I feel [like] I wanted to get as much information down as possible. I know there are plenty [of] others that are in a worse situation because of benefits being withdrawn. My heart really goes out to them.
If, like us, you are deemed to have a spare room, that is another worry, upset and obstacle to cope with.
This government will not be happy until we have all starved, frozen to death or back in the workhouses of the Victorian era.
We have also had to go cap in hand twice to a food bank, and I often just have soup and 2 slices of toast in a day. I try to do my best, but things are so expensive and it is very hard. I feel terrible that my illness has such a negative knock-on effect on my husband and son, as many others do. I wonder if my family would be better off with out me?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read all of this.
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 May 2014