DWP Universal Credit Fraud Crackdown Allows Officers to Make Arrests, Execute Warrants
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is set to announce a new £600million plan to prevent benefit fraud over the next three years. The plan aims to save the taxpayer £2billion.
The “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” program outlines how 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 it was part of a plan to ensure money is well spent and give taxpayers confidence that the money is going where it is needed.
The Daily Record reports that the announcement explains how DWP officers will now be empowered to make arrests, execute warrants, conduct searches and seize evidence. This will increase the ability of officers to tackle the most serious cases.
Read more: Shopkeepers’ fears over plans to build student accommodation atop the Poundland store in Nottingham
The measures will bring the DWP in line with other UK government departments, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The plan also proposes to introduce a new civil penalty to ensure that those who commit fraud face an adequate penalty.
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.
Additional powers will improve the Department’s access to information from a wider range of organizations, thereby increasing the Department’s ability to drive fraud out of the benefits system. Speaking about the new plan, Ms 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 before 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 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 reviews of claims and the introduction of Enhanced Verification Service.