DWP alert: your bank account and social networks could be investigated this Christmas for fraud
Universal Credit and other state benefits could see demand increase in the coming months as a new variant of the coronavirus looms and economic problems persist. It could also increase the prevalence of fraud and errors in the system, a problem that DWP is already struggling with.
According to DWP data, more than 20 million people in the UK apply for state benefits or pensions from the government. Earlier this year, the DWP also reported that fraud and errors in the benefits system had reached record levels, with £ 8.4bn overpaid in the last fiscal year.
In total, this amounted to 3.9 percent of overpaid benefit payments, the highest rate to date. In addition, around £ 6.3 billion of these overpayments are believed to be the result of fraudulent activity.
A DWP spokesperson commented on the numbers: “We also have strong plans in place to recover fraudulent claims and reduce fraud and errors to the lowest possible level. “
Additionally, DWP chief executive Neil Couling also noted that many claimants could be approached as the government focuses on its fraud and error efforts.
Over the past few months, it has become clear that the government is focused on streamlining the benefit claim system. In November, it emerged that the DWP was cracking down on anyone who failed to provide proof of their identity to support their application for universal credit.
Many Britons were unable to do so during the pandemic and as such the need for face-to-face meetings has been reduced. However, the DWP rectified this slowly as the UK began to recover, but allegations were made that the DWP demanded refunds from those who failed to respond to a request for evidence.
While many of these claimants may have a legitimate reason for not providing the evidence, the DWP would have closed claims and / or made automatic deductions.
This was criticized at the time by the Child Poverty Action Group, which argued that legitimate claimants are penalized.
Claire Hall, lawyer at the charity, commented: “As families get back on their feet, many of those who lost their jobs when the pandemic first hit are being subjected to a second hardship by the DWP .
“Despite legitimate requests for Universal Credit over 18 months ago, people have now received financially devastating debt notices simply because they have not been able to respond to requests for rapid verification of their information. “
Ms Hall urged the DWP to review these cases and suspend collection of “so-called debts” until it has successfully investigated them.
In response, a spokesperson for the DWP said: “At the start of the pandemic, we suspended some verification processes because we could no longer see customers face to face, advising customers that we could come back to request this verification. in the future.
“Those who can prove their right within a reasonable time will not be asked to reimburse.
“We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure that public money is spent correctly. Therefore, it is fair and legal that we seek to recover payments to which claimants were not entitled.
“We were unable to verify the details of these case studies because we were not provided with the required information. We can do this if it is provided.
Covid scheme fraud
In addition to the benefits, the government is also expected to focus its resources on recovering funds from coronavirus support-themed fraud. Specifically, many experts expect that fraud within the leave scheme will cost the UK billions.
Official data from HMRC showed that fraudulent holiday-themed activity reached nearly 30,000 cases and in July Jesse Norman, the financial secretary of the HM Treasury, confirmed that the government had opened at least 6,150 investigations into suspected overpayments due to error or fraud.
Rishi Sunak also recognized these difficulties in his spring budget.
The Chancellor said: ‘We will also tackle fraud in our Covid programs, with £ 100million to set up a new HMRC task force of around 1,000 investigators as well as new measures and investments in HMRC , to fight against tax evasion and fraud. . “
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