»

Benefit Fraud Information

Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime. It takes money and resources away from those in need and undermines trust in the welfare system. Deliberately withholding information or providing false information that affects a benefit claim is stealing. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme is intended to go to those who are entitled and not to the greedy few who are not. That's why we are targeting benefit thieves!

Torridge District Council takes Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support Reduction Scheme very seriously.  We recognise that the vast majority of people who claim benefits are honest, but we will not flinch from taking action against the fraudulent few.  The Department for Work and Pensions estimate that in 2012-2013 losses to the public purse due to Housing Benefit fraud reached £320 million and for Council Tax Benefit fraud £60 million.

Benefit theft is a crime and those found breaking the law face a criminal record and may also be subject to a reduction or withdrawal of any future benefit entitlement in accordance with the Social Security Loss of Benefits Regulations.

To help us to prevent, detect and deter benefit fraud, we have a professionally trained Investigation Team with powers to investigate people suspected of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud offences.  The Benefits Investigation Team work proactively and reactively to prevent, detect, and deter Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud. Where appropriate this may be in collaboration with other Local Authorities or the Department for Work and Pensions. The Investigation Team undertake interviews under caution in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in the same manner as the police.

The Audit Commission define fraud as intentional false representation including failure to declare information or abuse of position that is carried out to make a gain, cause loss or expose another to the risk of loss.

How can I report Benefit Fraud?

You can report suspected Housing Benefit fraud in three ways:

 

By telephone:

Contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440. Your call is free and confidential you do not have to give your name or address. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm.

If you have speech or hearing problems you can use a text phone service on 0800 328 0512 or Welsh speakers can call or 0800 678 3722.

Online at:

www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud

By Post:

 

NBFH, PO Box 224 , Preston PR1 1GP

What is Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud?

Sometimes people provide false (or incomplete) details in order to receive benefit, or more benefit than they are entitled to.  Fraud is usually committed when a person claiming benefit doesn't tell us their full circumstances when they first claim, or they don't promptly notify us about changes to their circumstances after the claim is made.

People who make false claims or do not promptly inform the council of changes when they happen, will not only have to repay any overpaid benefit/support but may also be prosecuted for offences under relevant legislation such as the Social Security Administration Act, or the Fraud Act.

Types of Benefit Fraud

What types of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud do people commit?

Some examples are:-

  • Failure to declare all of their income (e.g. earnings and private pensions).
  • Failure to declare all of their savings (e.g. all bank/building society accounts and ISA's).
  • If they fail to declare that they own another property or land.
  • If they no longer live at the property at which they are claiming.
  • If they have failed to declare a partner, or other adults who live with them.

Fraud may also be committed if:-

  • The person pretends to rent a property that they actually own.
  • The person falsifies documents to make it appear that their rent is higher than it actually is.
  • The landlord doesn't tell us their tenants have moved out and the landlord still continues to accept the Housing Benefit payments.
  • Someone asks an employer to collude in supplying false wage details.

 

What are the Penalties for Benefit Fraud?

This is decided by the courts and varies according to the severity of the offence and the charges laid at court.  For example someone found guilty at a Crown Court under the Theft Act 1968 s15 can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

In recent times Benefit Fraudsters successfully prosecuted by Torridge District Council have been subject to sentences such as 15 months in prison and tagging and curfew orders.

What are we doing to stop Housing Benefit and Council Reduction Scheme fraud?

Torridge District Council has a Housing Benefit/Council Tax Support Anti-fraud Policy and Strategy.  The policy implements a three-pronged campaign against Benefit Fraud; improved detection, implementation of a more effective deterrence and better prevention.

  • Prevent -   We seek to stop fraud entering the system by verification of documents submitted to support benefit applications,  Intervention Review visits to customers to verify claim details and by raising staff awareness through regular anti-fraud training.
  • Detect - to find fraud by utilising all the legal means at our disposal.  We work jointly with other bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions.  We conduct Data Matching Exercises and intelligence led Fraud Campaigns.  We have a Fraud Hotline (01237 429292).
  • Deter - In accordance with the Torridge District Council Sanctions Policy in appropriate cases we may undertake prosecution action, or offer a caution or administrative penalty as an alternative to prosecution.

Results of action taken 2013/14

The following sanctions were successfully administered by Torridge District Council in 2013-14 after the completion of an investigation by the Investigation Team.

10 Prosecution cases were successfully prosecuted in the Magistrates or Crown Court.

6 Administrative Penalties were accepted as a financial penalty as an alternative to facing prosecution action. Administrative Penalties are offered in appropriate cases (in accordance with the council's Sanction Policy) where the amount and duration of the fraud is usually of a lower level.

4 Cautions were offered to and accepted by claimants as an alternative to prosecution.

On 112 occasions Torridge District Council's Investigation Team used the Data Protection Act section 29(3) to obtain information to combat Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud:

On 23 occasions Torridge District Council used powers under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to obtain information from employers to combat Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud.

On 53 occasions Torridge District Council used powers under the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 to obtain information to combat Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud:                                                                                                                                

On 0 occasions Torridge District Council used powers under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information) (England) Regulations 2014:

Torridge District Council has a total of 2 employees (in absolute posts) undertaking the investigation and prosecution of fraud.

Torridge District Council has a total of 2 employees (in full time equivalent posts) undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud.

1: The total number (in absolute posts) of professionally accredited counter fraud specialists undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud.

1: The total number (in full time equivalent posts) of professionally accredited counter fraud specialists undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud.

Torridge District Council spent a total of £70,323 on the investigation and prosecution of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme fraud.

In 1 case the keys of a Social Housing Property were handed back to the Housing Association as a direct result of action by our Investigations Team.  The Audit Commission estimate that the average cost of temporary accommodation for homeless families costs Councils around £18,000 per family per year.

23 Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme, and Social Housing Tenancy fraud cases were closed after an investigation.

On 23 occasions a Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme or Social Housing Tenancy fraud was identified.

£87,563: The total monetary value of the Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit /Reduction Scheme fraud that was detected.

£28,104 the total monetary value of the 2013/14 Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit /Reduction Scheme fraud that had been recovered as at 7th November 2014. The council is undertaking ongoing action to recoup the remainder of the outstanding amounts from the fraudsters.

20 cases of Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme, and Social Housing Tenancy irregularity were investigated.

0: The total number of occasions on which a Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme or Social Housing Tenancy irregularity was identified.

£0: The total monetary value of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit /Reduction Scheme irregularity that was detected.

360 cases of Council Tax Single Person Discount irregularity were investigated by the Investigations Team.

30: The total number of cases of Council Tax Single Person Discount irregularity that were identified (by the Investigations Team).

£15,628: The total monetary value of the Council Tax Single Person Discount irregularity that was detected by the Investigations Team.

£15,241: The total monetary value of the Council Tax Single Person Discount irregularity that was recovered following the investigation by the Investigations Team.