What is benefit fraud?
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction are funded by a combination of Government Grants and Council Tax, so they are funded by the taxes we all pay. Recent estimates of losses to the public purse for benefit fraud, which includes Department of Work and Pensions benefits such Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support are in the region of £1.9 Billion per year. It is estimated that Housing Benefit fraud amounts to 4.1% of the total paid out.
A householder could be committed fraud if they or anyone living with them:
- Working and claiming Are working and not telling us or not telling us about a wage increase, change of or additional jobs, going self employed, or increasing net profit of their business over time.
- Non-disclosure of property/capital
Failing to declare either savings/capital or the ownership of another property/land elsewhere (for which they may be receiving rent or may have recently Sold). Anything that gives you access to capital or savings could be classed as a capital asset and you must tell us.
- Non-disclosure of income
Fails to declare all of their income, knowing or intending that the non-declaration will increase their benefit award.
- Non-disclosure of partner (living together as a couple)
Failing to declare the presence of a partner who may be working or not, knowing or intending that this would affect their entitlement.
- Non-declaration of non-dependents and/or sub-tenants other adults who live with you)
Failure to declare the presence of other adults living in the property, in order to preserve or increase entitlement to benefit.
- False claims by homeowners
This is where the owner of a property falsely states that he or she is paying rent to occupy what is, in fact, his or her own property, usually inventing a fictitious landlord to do so.
- Failing to declare a change of address
Where a claimant fails to declare that he/she has moved, but continues to accept payments of Housing Benefit for their previous address, they are committing fraud.
- False address fraud
This fraud may occur where a person is claiming for an address at which he or she is not in fact living. This type of offence may occur with the collusion of the landlord or other tenants.
- Landlord fraud
This is where a landlord continues to receive benefit paid directly to him/her for a period after which he/she is aware that the claimant has vacated the premises. Where the landlord has access to more than one property, there is the potential for committing fraud by not telling us that they have moved tenants around.
Our Counter Fraud Strategy highlights what we will do to minimise fraud entering the system as well as the steps we will take to prosecute or fine those who defraud the Council.
The Legal framework
The Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1992 places a statutory obligation upon Local Authorities to investigate and detect all allegations of fraud within the Council Tax and Housing Benefit System. Benefit Fraud Investigators must work within the law examples of which are:
- The Police and Criminal evidence Act 1984 (PACE)
- The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA)
- The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)
- The Human Rights Act 1998
- General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR)/Data Protection Act 2018
- Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997
- Social Security Fraud Act 2001
- The Theft (Amendment) Act 1996
- The Fraud Act 2006
There are a number of sanctions available to impose on a claimant who has committed a benefit offence.
- Recovery Action
In some cases an investigation may uncover an overpayment but it is not appropriate to take criminal action, however the overpayment will be recovered in full.
- Administrative Penalty
This is offered as an alternative to prosecution in cases where an investigation has been undertaken, and the Council believes that sufficient evidence has been gathered to suggest an offence has been committed. The overpayment in addition to a fine, valued at 30% of the recoverable overpayment, must be repaid to the Council. In accepting the penalty the suspect is not admitting that he or she has committed an offence but if they refuse the Administration Penalty, they may be prosecuted.
- Local Authority Caution
These are similar to a Police caution and can also be offered as an alternative to prosecution. Before a caution can be issued the suspect must have been 'interviewed under caution' and he or she must have admitted that he or she has committed an offence. The Local Authority Caution does not give the suspect a criminal record but it can be cited in Court should (s)he be subsequently convicted of a Benefit Offence.
In cases where serious benefit fraud is suspected, Bassetlaw District Council will consider prosecution. These cases are normally heard in a Magistrate's Court, but the more serious cases may be dealt with in a Crown Court.
Rights and Powers of the Investigator
Designated and properly trained investigators can seek information from contractors and the self employed under the Social Security Administration Act 1992, Section 110A and 109B & C. The Benefit Fraud Code of Practice sets out our rights and Powers as Investigators and the procedures we must follow.
How To Report Benefit Fraud
Phone: 01909 533 731
Online: Report a benefit fraud
Bassetlaw District Council has an Investigation team to deter or stop fraud or error from entering the system, or to identify any benefit payments that are being made to people who should not be receiving them.
The team is made up of specially trained staff who investigate any suspected or alleged cases of fraud. They work closely with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) involving cases or fraud with other state benefits such as Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Universal Credit and Guarantee Pension Credit. The team also investigates other frauds such as Council tax discount or Housing. If you are not sure, give us a ring. You do not have to identify yourself and any information you give is strictly confidential.
It is important that people who are claiming benefit to which they are not entitled are reported to the Benefit Investigation team. The more information you give us the more likely the investigation will result in a successful conclusion.
So how can you help us stop Benefit Fraud?
Do you know anyone who is claiming benefit and shouldn't be? If so, please contact us (see above). To help us stop them there are always certain questions or pieces of information to remember when contacting us:
Instead of just saying that someone is working, tell us who is working? Where? What do they do? What time do they leave/return? How do they travel? What sort of car? What colour? What is the registration number? How long for?
Always remember that the more information we have at the start of an investigation the better we are able to investigate. Getting the extra details can make the difference between a person not being investigated because we don't have enough details and the same person being prosecuted.
Last Updated on Monday, September 11, 2023