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NEW MEASURE TO CRACKDOWN ON HOUSING BENEFIT FRAUD

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New figures published today by the Department for Work and Pensions ...
New figures published today by the Department for Work and Pensions

show that the level of fraud and error in Housing Benefit in 2002-3

stands at £550m-£750m*. The DWP has a target of reducing fraud and

error in Housing Benefit by 25% by 2006. Housing Benefit fraud

and error statistics will now be published every six months.

*Around £750m (6.2%) of total Housing Benefit expenditure is

estimated to have been overpaid due to fraud and error in 2002-3, of

which an estimated £550m was overpaid to cases within the scope of

the exercise's sampling (5.1% of such expenditure), and a further

£200m is estimated by extrapolation to have been overpaid to cases

outside the scope of the sampling.

Housing Benefit minister Chris Pond said: 'We are determined to drive

down fraud and error in Housing Benefit and other benefits. We have

introduced a raft of new measures to combat fraud and error. These

include plans to increase, from next April, 'data matching'

information supplied by claimants to local councils with details from

other benefits they may be claiming.'

The figures show:

- Around £550m of the cases looked at are estimated to have been

overpaid due to fraud and error in 2002-3.

- Most of the total was overpaid to people of working age, rather

than pensioners.

- Fraud is estimated to have accounted for between one quarter and

one half of overpaid Housing Benefit. Claimant error and local

council or DWP error are estimated to have accounted for around one

quarter or more of the total.

The raft of measures announced in the Housing Benefit reform package

will simplify the scheme and help reduce fraud and error. These

measures include:

- Customers no longer need to re-claim every year which frees up

local authority resources to better target those claims at highest

risk of fraud and error.

- From April 2004 there will be enhanced monthly matc hing of DWP data

with local council data and more sophisticated risk analysis which

is expected to increase the number of overpayments detected by at

least 25%. Cases with the highest risk of fraud and error

will get extra reviews and may receive visits from fraud

investigators.

- There is extra help and support available to councils to improve

benefit administration from DWP officials who have helped or are

still helping 65 councils. Progress reports show clearance times

and backlogs have reduced and there have been improvements in

skills levels and staff morale.

NOTES

1. The Department for Work and Pensions has a target to reduce fraud

and error in Housing Benefit for working age customers by 25%.

2. The figures are based on a sample of 10,000 cases. The full report here.

3. From now on figures for fraud and error in Housing Benefit will be published every six months.

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