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£510m crackdown on benefits fraud

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The government has announced £510m in funding to target fraudsters lying to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about their benefit claims.

Ministers say the money will be used to improve the department’s capability and capacity to detect and deter benefit fraud and catch fraudsters.

This crackdown will include 2,000 trained specialists to review claims by carrying out property checks, following up earning declarations of self-employed claimants, and cross-checking bank details.

The government says the funding boost builds on the department’s ‘highly skilled and agile’ counter-fraud team and investigators in cyber security and serious and organised crime. These teams lead government action to tackle organised crime groups seeking to exploit support during the pandemic, and shutting down systematic attacks on the benefit system. The government claims staff have prevented at least £1.9bn in benefits from being paid to people trying to scam the system.

Thérèse Coffey, secretary of state at the DWP, said: “Investing in measures to fight fraud protects honest taxpayers’ money and stops criminals funding their illicit activities off the back of our welfare system.

“We know the characteristics of a suspicious claim. This half a billion-pound cash injection is a clear message to fraudsters and criminal gangs: Anyone trying to con us will get caught out.”

The DWP pointed to a recent case handled by the counter-fraud team which supported a high value fraud bust with police in Stratford-upon-Avon. ‘Operation Iggy’ was a sting on a woman who had made 14 Universal Credit claims using false identity documents for a total of £270,000. She was arrested, with the false documents found in her house, and sentenced to 30 months in prison, with DWP now recovering the money.