Millions of pounds saved as tide is turned on benefit fraudsters

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money have been saved as the Government clamps down further on benefit fraud.

With a fresh determination to drive down fraud and errors in the benefit system, the overpayment rate has decreased by £400 million over the past 12 months.

The latest national statistics confirm that in the past year fraud and error rates in 2023 fell to 3.6 per cent (£8.3 billion) from 4.0 per cent (£8.7 billion), with Universal Credit (UC) losses falling from 14.7 per cent (£5,920 million) to 12.8 per cent (£5,540 million). The figures also reveal reduced rates of fraud, both overall and within UC.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, said: “Our welfare system provides a strong financial safety net for vulnerable people, and no one should be able to cynically abuse that for profit.

“We are cracking down on fraudsters, and the figures show encouraging progress as DWP works to both prevent new fraudulent claims and collar cases where people have been shamelessly exploiting the system.

Multi-million pound Fraud Plan

“While we may be beginning to turn the tide on fraud, there is no room for complacency and still much to do. Our £900 million Fraud Plan will help us deliver savings of over £9 billion for the taxpayer over the next five years.”

The rates of fraud and error are coming down, with statistically significant decreases recorded in the UC overpayment rate and rates of claimant error – which has reduced by over a third. The official error overpayments rate is now at the lowest recorded rate.

The overall rate of fraud overpayments is also down from the highest recorded level in 2022 when fraudsters took advantage of the temporary easements the DWP put in place during the pandemic to pay people who needed help.

The Government has been clear that it will crack down on those exploiting the benefits system as they are stealing from those who most need help.

Minister responsible for tackling fraud, Tom Pursglove MP, said: “Benefit fraud is never a victimless crime, which is why it’s entirely right we stop money going to fraudsters and serious crime groups intent on exploiting the system – and is instead paid to the people who need it.

“Cutting fraud delivers on the Prime Minister’s priorities, reducing our national debt and helping to curb inflation by protecting the hard-earned money of taxpayers.

“We’re starting to see the rates of fraud and error move in a positive direction, thanks to our preventative work, alongside vigorously pursuing fraudsters using the full range of our powers to show that crime does not pay.”

Savings targeted

Last year the DWP launched a robust plan to drive down fraud and error from the benefits system. The “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” plan sits alongside investment of £900 million that will deliver £2.4 billion of savings by the end of next year, growing to over £9 billion by 2027/28.

This additional funding will allow the Department to review millions of Universal Credit claims over the next five years. They also provide intelligence on new and emerging ways to identify fraud and error entering the welfare system.

As part of the fraud plan, when parliamentary time allows, DWP plans to introduce a raft of new powers, including strengthening the penalty regime by introducing a new civil penalty for cases of fraud, which will act as a deterrent to those cynically seeking to exploit the system.

The new powers would also include requirements for organisations, such as banks, to share data securely on an increased scale to check levels of savings and whether claimants are living abroad. There are also plans to increase DWP officers’ powers to conduct searches, seize evidence, and make arrests.

If you believe your circumstances have changed, you are encouraged to get in touch with the DWP to ensure your entitlement is correct.