back to article IT tackles benefit cheats

Technology is helping catch benefits cheats but there are doubts about a key case management system, according to a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) In Progress in tackling benefit fraud, the NAO praises the government's record in reducing fraud from an estimated £2bn in 2000-01 to £800m in 2006-07. The …

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  1. Peter Fielden-Weston
    Coat

    Ummm...

    "Bourn also said the department's specific counter fraud activities cost £154m during 2006-07 and identified £106m of overpaid benefits. Although some of the department's initiatives lead to earlier interception of overpayments and may deter potential fraudsters, he said the department could do more to determine whether its activities are cost-effective."

    Why didn't they just say "Scrap that department and save £48 million"?

  2. Paul Young
    Boffin

    Overpayments

    I have a friend that has recieved quite a few Benefit Overpayments!!

    They usually "ask" for the overpayment back but as it is their fault

    they cannot demand re-payment.

    I think last year his overpayments were approx £600

  3. Geoff Johnson
    Coat

    Security costs.

    But how much is it costing other departments to send discs to the NAO with appropriate security...

    Oh, hang on, forget that argument.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Errr...

    "the NAO praises the government's record in reducing fraud from an estimated £2bn in 2000-01 to £800m in 2006-07"

    Nah, they just lost the CDs with the rest of the accounting data on them.

  5. Alan Lukaszewicz
    Unhappy

    Heh heh

    Now dovetail this report with poor security measures (lost data, funny use of public money, ...) that also hit the press.

    It also seems that the £154 million is acting more as a quality assurance arm (identifying overpayments requires £154M???) rather than identifying criminal intent to defraud.

  6. Hedley Phillips

    As long as they make it fair

    The trouble is they clamp down on cheats (which is all good and fair) but make it impossible for the honest man to claim.

    A few years back I was made redundant and had to sign on and look after my 3 children while the wife worked.

    Several times I had to ask the Benefits Office if I could change my signing on time as it clashed with picking the kids up from School/Nursery.

    Oh they loved that! All of a sudden I was told that if was looking after children I was therefore not able to look for a job and therefore they would have to stop my benefits.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re-Overpayments

    My ex has been over-payed in tax credits by about £9K in 2003/4, the same in 2004/5 and £1900 in 2005/6 (she has been receiving about £1100 a month, all of which she was paying straight to the child minder!) She was paid more in credits in 2005/6 than the previous two years, but her income from her work was pretty much the same. The revenue can not (perhaps will not) explain why she has been overpaid so much and why not by the same huge amount in 2005/6 as in the previous years as the circumstances of the award were the same.

    Me thinks the revenue and computers do not work too well together. I bet most of the fall in fraud is either a fall in detected fraud or as a result of the mass advertising campaigns against fraud.

  8. Kenny Swan
    Thumb Down

    Tarred with the same brush

    We've all been there and treated this way by our 'benefits system'. If you're a single teenage, junky mother with 3 kids by 18 they'll throw money at you and probably help you get a house and make sure you never have to work again. If you're signing on between jobs, be prepared to be treated automatically like a thief, cheat and no-hope waste of time. I love our government. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside...

  9. Ben Cross
    Black Helicopters

    @ Hedley Phillips

    It's alright Hedley..

    I mean 2 years ago i had to wait around 3 months to find a suitable job. I was only on "the dole" (hate that expression) for 3-4 weeks..but im still waiting to be paid.

    Oh wait, it'll never happen. I suppose if i wasn't english and/or in a life threatening condition due to no income and moaned on a daily basis i might just get 1p.

    Or not. The benefits office suck, they give out money to cheaters, and to honest people, well you get sweet..ummm nothing.

  10. John Macintyre

    of course the alternative is...

    to sack all the incompetent fuckwits who work for the revenue department and stop overpaying people. that would save.. let me work this out, I'm sure it was a larger figure overall...

    oh sorry, you can't sack them. it's the govt, they don't sack incompetent people, just promote them

  11. Steve

    @ John Macintyre

    "to sack all the incompetent fuckwits"

    They'd have no-one left if they did that.

  12. Spleen

    Protesting too much

    Benefit cheats are, of course, the scum of the earth. Not because benefit cheating makes you the scum of the earth, but because the scum of the earth, unsurprisingly, tend to benefit cheat - most of the reported cases seem to be local councillors, drug dealers and other criminals.

    That said, the shrill tone of the government "campaign" on benefit cheating gets really annoying really fast. I'm particularly thinking of the fantastically Orwellian "we're watching you" campaign of a few years' back. I seem to remember the TV adverts had "benefit cheats" going about their lives while being followed around by a big target sign representing the government. I'm not sure whether that was before or after the police demonstrated at Stockwell what exactly the consequences of the state following you around with a big target sign are. It was accompanied by Stasi-esque entreaties to grass up your neighbours.

    The government would of course like us to believe that benefit cheats are stealing money from you, the taxpayer. This outwardly makes sense but is of course BollockS with a capital B and S. The money has already been stolen from you, by the government. If the money is stolen from the taxpayers, did the government return to them the £1.2bn it supposedly clawed back from the cheats (that's £41.38 for each of us)? Did it f***.

  13. RW
    Unhappy

    Deja vu

    I am reminded of a report in Computer World many years about detecting benefit fraud. The states of Ohio & Pennsylvania have a common boundary, and decided to data match their welfare recipient lists in the adjacent counties to catch double-dippers living close to the line.

    The published an article in which the IT director in one state gushed away about this wonderful program that had cost $1,000,000 to implement -- and, it turned out, not unearthed a single cheat.

    Someone pointed out in a followup letter (remember those? something like comments on El Reg) that the cost benefit ratio was pretty bad; in fact, it was infinite.

    The situation under discussion has an eerie resemblance to that ancient report. Nothing ever changes.

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