Coronavirus: Benefit claims fraud could be £1.5bn – BBC News

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Profit officers have informed the BBC they concern that as a lot as £1.5bn might have been misplaced in fraudulent claims for Common Credit score in current weeks.

Enormous demand for the profit has seen some processes relaxed to make sure nearly all of claims are paid rapidly.

However officers consider that some organised crime teams – in addition to people – might have taken benefit of the system.

The DWP mentioned it displays profit fraud “very intently”.

Greater than 1.5 million individuals utilized for Common Credit score over the course of 1 4 week interval as much as 9 April.

Over that interval, functions have been operating at six instances regular ranges.

To course of the claims rapidly, and ensure individuals acquired assist, plenty of processes have been relaxed.

Id checks have been processed on-line, moderately than face-to-face, and a few data was taken on belief, equivalent to the price of lease and whether or not somebody had been self-employed.

Whereas officers are eager to emphasize that the overwhelming majority of claims got here from real candidates, particularly within the preliminary surge, they concern the looser checks have opened the door to people and a few organised crime teams exploiting the system.

The federal government is conscious of the considerations and is investigating the extent of the issue, however the BBC has been informed that preliminary calculations point out that as a lot as £1.5bn has been wrongly been paid out.

Whereas fraud investigators will try and recoup all the cash, one official mentioned the priority was the lots of of thousands and thousands of kilos that had been paid out as advance funds, typically on the day, and that it could be far tougher to get that cash again because the recipients typically could not be traced.

One of many unique goals of Common Credit score was to chop £1bn from the welfare finances by decreasing fraud and error.

However official figures revealed final week confirmed the issues are rising on the profit.

Whereas the extent of general fraud within the welfare system was 1.4%, on Common Credit score it was 7.6%, a determine that elevated by 27% in a single yr.

Final summer time, we highlighted that criminals have been exploiting loopholes within the Common Credit score system for paying advance funds to claimants.

In March, the Nationwide Audit Workplace estimated the federal government might have misplaced as much as £150m because of the drawback.

In a press release the Division for Work and Pensions informed the BBC: “Because of the extraordinary efforts of workers, since mid-March we have managed to course of greater than two million new claims for Common Credit score and pay 970,000 advances, getting lots of of thousands and thousands of kilos into the accounts of these in pressing want inside days.

“We proceed to observe profit fraud very intently and can relentlessly pursue the minority making an attempt to abuse the system utilizing the complete vary of obtainable powers, together with prosecution by means of the courts.

“Our detection techniques make use of more and more subtle methods to determine discrepancies and thwart these in search of to rip-off taxpayers.”

News Reporter

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