“Universal Credit will reduce fraud and error in the benefits system, Ministers said today (24/02/2012), as new figures confirm the current system is too complex and still open to abuse and error.” Reports The Information Daily. Please go to our latest news section to read the full article.
Universal Credit promises to be tough on fraud. The recent impact assesment on Universal Credit outlines the following;
The policy intention is to prevent, deter and punish benefit fraud, which costs innocent taxpayers money and undermines public confidence in the welfare system. As part of this the government wants the ability to impose tougher punishments in cases of benefit fraud. This will mean the introduction of a new minimum administrative penalty of £350 for benefit fraud or 50% of the amount overpaid whichever is greater up to a maximum of £2000; increase in the detection rate of the number punished for attempted fraud; extension of the loss of benefit sanction for 1 to 3 strikes which will mean a loss for 13 weeks; 26 weeks and 3 years. Immediate 3 year loss of benefit for serious organised benefit fraud cases. Hardship payments at a reduced rate will be available for vulnerable groups. A new civil penalty of £50 for customers who are negligent in maintaining their benefit claim to encourage personal responsibility.
The emphasis of the impact assessment is clearly outlining fraud, but fraud is not the whole story. Errors and genuine mistakes also account for a proportion of benefit claims that are inaccurate. The public needs to have confidence in a new benefits system so that trust can be obtained from both sides. Fraud does need to be addressed but so does the complexity of benefit systems that cause mistakes to be made. What do you think? Are the penalties too tough? Should more assistance be offered to claimants to reduce errors?