DWP announces new 2,500-strong team for bank accounts and raids on benefits crackdown

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced a massive team of 2,500 who will check Universal Credit claims – including information that may be obtained from bank accounts to see if fraud is being committed. The DWP said it had saved £1.3 billion from fraud and error in the past 12 months in a crackdown.

Anti-error and fraud operations over the past 12 months have included busting a £53.9 million Universal Credit scam that has been described as Britain’s biggest ever case of benefit fraud. In a plan announced today, the DWP said it wanted to save £9 billion over the next four years.

In the past it has recruited 2,500 investigators to check millions of Universal Credit claims for accuracy. In addition, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill currently before Parliament will assist the Department, working with third parties such as banks, to identify claims that indicate potential fraud and error there. Legislation will also allow DWP staff to raid homes and make arrests.

This means the DWP will work with banks to check the accounts of suspected fraudsters to see if they have too many savings and see if they are coming in and going out. It will introduce a new civil penalty to punish cheaters, and invest £70 million in advanced data analytics. The DWP said: “These measures will mean that those who want to take advantage of the natural compassion and generosity of the British people will have nowhere to hide.”

The information collection bill which allows banks to provide information to investigators, the DWP said, will recover an extra £600 million. The news comes on the heels of the Prime Minister outlining major reforms to the welfare system last month, including a new bill in the next Parliament to tackle benefit fraud. The DWP will pledge to introduce legislation that means its investigations are aligned with HMRC’s tax powers, such as the ability to make arrests and search and seizures by warrant, and will also modernize information-gathering powers to help prove or disprove fraud faster.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride, said: “We are stepping up the fight against those who steal from the taxpayer, building on our success to stop £18 billion falling into the wrong hands in 2022-23.

“With new legal powers, better data and thousands of extra staff, our comprehensive plan ensures we have the tools we need to tackle the scourge of benefit fraud.

The DWP is adding to this by employing more than 2,500 external agents on a temporary basis as part of the Targeted Case Review to help identify incorrect Universal Credit claims. Together with the DWP’s own internal agents in the review, this will take the number of people to almost 6,000.

The DWP is also investigating a new civil penalty for defrauding fraudsters, widening the scope of cases where they can receive a penalty where the courts are not prosecuting, and increasing the value of the civil penalty. In addition, the DWP will make changes to Universal Credit including new partially automated checks on self-employed income, new online prompts for claimants to reconfirm their circumstances (such as if they’ve moved in with a partner), and checks on capital increase when people claim the benefit to ensure they are eligible.

These measures will be supported by advanced data analytics, using machine learning, to detect and prevent fraudulent claims. A member of DWP staff will continue to make final decisions about accepting or stopping any claim.

The plan comes as fraud has come to account for almost 40% of all crime, with just over a quarter of respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey 2022 saying it is ‘Not wrong’ or that it is just ‘A Bit Wrong’ for unemployment benefits. not reporting £3,000 from a casual job. In rules that came into effect today, universal credit claimants who work less than 18 hours a week will have to look for more work from Monday.

As part of the Government’s major changes to the social welfare system, ministers are raising the administrative earnings threshold from 15 hours to 18 hours according to the national living wage for an individual claimant. That means those who work less than half a full-time week will need to meet their work coach more often to increase their earnings, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Rishi Sunak’s plans to tackle the UK’s so-called ‘sick note culture’ with a series of welfare reforms have been slammed as ‘cruel’ and part of the ‘continuous killing’ of vulnerable people.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Institute for Learning and Work, said: “Many disabled people want to work, but they don’t get enough help to do so from employers or the government. Focusing on the signature process for sick notes will miss the point without further root and branch reforms to extend support, said Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Institute for Learning and Work.

“Only one in ten disabled people who are out of work receive help to find work each year, but two in ten want to work. We need to tackle the employment support gap, help employers better support people with health conditions and disabilities and look at how they design jobs and recruit, and improve health and on other support for disabled people.”

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