Crackdown on Universal Credit fraud with DWP cleared to make arrests
DWP officers could be allowed to arrest and execute warrants as part of a multi-million pound scheme to tackle benefit fraud.
‘Combating fraud in the welfare system’, the DWP’s new £600million plan aimed to save the taxpayer £2billion over the next three years. The plan must be announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
2,000 trained specialists will review more than two million Universal Credit applications over the next five years, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced today. She added that ‘combating fraud in the welfare system’ is part of enhanced ambitions to ensure money is well spent and give taxpayers confidence that funds are reaching those who need them. .
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The new plan sets out how DWP officers – to tackle the most serious cases – will be empowered to make arrests, execute warrants, conduct searches and seize evidence, aligning the DWP with other UK government departments, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
New civil penalties are proposed to ensure that those who commit fraud are subject to adequate penalties. Additionally, the measures include the power to require organisations, such as banks, to securely share data on a larger scale – currently the DWP can only request data about identifiable individuals.
This change will allow DWP to proactively identify potentially fraudulent claims – for example knowing if claimants have too much savings or live overseas which would make them ineligible for Universal Credit. The department’s ability to drive fraud out of the benefits system is expected to strengthen, as new powers will improve the department’s access to information from a wider range of organisations.
Commenting on the new plan, Thérèse Coffey said: “The welfare system is there to help the most vulnerable. This is no slot machine for callous criminals and it is vital that the government ensures the money is well spent.
“Fraud is an ever-present threat and prior to the pandemic, our efforts brought fraud and error to record levels.
“This plan outlines what we need to fight fraud in 2022 and beyond. Thousands of trained specialists, combined with new tools and targeted powers, will allow us to keep pace with fraud in today’s digital age and prevent, detect and deter those who would attempt to cheat the system. »
Government Efficiency Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Taxpayers need to be sure that money spent on welfare gets to those who really need it. This plan builds on the announcement of the new Public Sector Fraud Authority, which will use data analytics to recover stolen taxpayer money.
The new powers will be granted by Parliament, subject to time and approval. The DWP has brought fraud and error down to near pre-pandemic levels, rolling out Universal Credit nationwide.
However, in recent years fraudsters have exploited the system as DWP streamlined processes for people to receive help under the UK government’s emergency aid during the pandemic.
In response to this fraudulent activity, the Department has undertaken expert interventions to identify and stop abuses of the welfare system preventing billions from ending up in the wrong hands, through the disruption of identity theft, retrospective claims reviews and the introduction of Enhanced Service Verification.