published a report by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) on the
administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and counter
fraud activity by Caerphilly CBC.
The report finds that Caerphilly CBC was not in a position to meet
all its stated aims and objectives for the benefit service. It placed
an emphasis on paying benefit quickly and this achievement
compromised the aims of getting payments right first time and
deterring fraud. The council had no backlogs of work to hinder claims
The council failed to routinely verify information and evidence in
support of claims. Security was not an integral part of the
administration of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. From its
sample, the report finds that the quality of verification was poor.
This consistently poor standard of verification indicates that speed
of processing claims is achieved at the expense of quality.
The report finds that the council effectively administered renewal
claims to benefit and ensured continuity of benefit payments to
The council dealt with changes of circumstances promptly which
reduced the number of overpayments raised. It pursued overpayments of
benefit vigorously and had an effective rate of recovery of over 65%.
The council made good use of legal action and debt collection
agencies to recover debt where other recovery options had failed.
The introduction of benefit anti-fraud policies is seen as a positive
move and demonstrates the council's position on how it will deal with
offenders. The council had also completed many successful
prosecutions. However, there was some scope for improvement in
working with other organisations and in the quality and speed of
investigations. A lack of resources and high individual caseloads
resulted, in some instances, in poor quality investigations.
BFI expresses disappointment that Caerphilly CBC had failed to fully
implement some recommendations from external audit that would have
helped make the council's benefit service more secure from fraud and
In 2000/01, Caerphilly CBC administered approximately£39.5m in
housing benefits. This is approximately 18.7% of its total gross
BFI is an independent unit within the Department for Work and
Pensions that reports directly to the secretary of state for work and
pensions on the standard of benefit administration and counter fraud
Malcolm Wicks, work and pensions minister announced the publication
of the report in a ministerial written statement.
1. The process for the inspection at Caerphilly CBC included an
initial fact finding stage, an on-site visit and report generation
and clearance. The on-site visit took place during February 2002.
2. A Welsh translated version of the BFI inspection report has been
produced and published simultaneously.
3. Each BFI inspection report is considered by the secretary of state
who decides whether any further action is appropriate. The secretary
of state has powers to issue directions to a local authority to
secure acceptable/minimum standards in performance.
4. A new contract for welfare: Safeguarding Social Security sets out
the government's strategy for tackling fraud in benefits. It calls
for sustained and detailed effort across 4 fronts:
- getting it right - benefit payments should be correct from day one
- keeping it right - ensuring payments are adjusted as circumstances
- putting it right - detecting when payments go wrong and taking
prompt action to correct them, with appropriate penalties to
- making sure things work - monitoring progress, evaluating the
strength of defences and adjusting them in the light of experience.
BFI is integral to this strategy.
5. A copy of the report can be found on the internet at: