Here’s why more than 85 per cent of public tips on benefit ‘frauds’ are false

Benefits-Street-football-protest

No benefit: After Middlesbrough FC supporters heard a series of Benefits Street was to be filmed on Teesside, they flew banners attacking the decision at the club’s next match. They knew that it, and shows like it, help create distrust of people on benefits that leads to false allegations of fraud.

Only a few days ago, a commenter was telling This Writer about people he absolutely knew were benefit fraudsters.

Well, maybe 14 per cent of them were.

This all progresses from another statistic – one we’ve already heard.

It states that people believe 27 per cent of benefit claimants are committing fraud, when the real figure is just 0.7 per cent. In the case of sickness/disability benefits, it’s 0.4 per cent.

Why do people believe this? They get it from the media – from papers like the Express and the Mail, and TV shows like Benefits Street and all the other “poverty porn” programming.

And where do the media people get their ideas? From the Conservative Government – of course.

Boil it all down and you get a “make-work” scheme in which the Conservative Government – through the media – creates an atmosphere of distrust against people on benefits, especially the sick and disabled, leading to an escalating number of inaccurate allegations of fraud against claimants.

That’s why Mr Farron’s comment is important, even though he’s partially mistaken.

The idea isn’t to turn people against the welfare state.

It’s to turn people against the sick and the disabled. Divide and rule.

More than 85% of fraud allegations made by the public over the last five years were false, according to figures obtained by the Observer.

A freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions discloses that between 2010 and 2015 the government closed 1,041,219 alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public. Insufficient or no evidence of fraud was discovered in 887,468 of these. In 2015 alone, of the 153,038 cases closed by the DWP’s Fraud and Error Service, 132,772 led to no action.

People can use an online form on the DWP website to anonymously report suspects, listing their eye colour, piercings, scars, tattoos and other details they deem relevant. Suspicions can also be logged through the DWP benefit fraud hotline.

Information received by the Observer states that more than 1.6 million cases of benefit fraud were opened between 2010 and 2015 after reports logged by the public.

Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The alarming number of incorrect reports shows the system has failed, it should be the DWP which investigates benefit fraud, not your closest neighbours. This McCarthy-style reporting of benefit fraud is another example of the government’s desire to turn people against the welfare state and to treat sick and disabled people as second-class citizens.”

Source: More than 85% of public tips on benefit ‘frauds’ are false | Society | The Guardian

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18 thoughts on “Here’s why more than 85 per cent of public tips on benefit ‘frauds’ are false

  1. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    I despise and loathe people who cheat, and particularly so when ministers post inaccurate information with the intention of harming genuine people and depriving them from benefits while continuing to claim for their own extravagances.

  2. Tony Dean

    It is only a few years ago that 99.37% of people who reported a benefit fraud were wrong so the current figure is an improvement.
    Personally I think people who report fraud should be publicly accountable in the case of them being wrong so the person wrongly accused can sue.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Would you care to provide a link to this information so the rest of us can verify it, Tony?

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Using the Full Fact report, you appear to be looking at the wrong numbers.
        Of the 253,708 reports between 2010-11, 207,450 led to no action – that’s around 82 per cent.
        Between 2010 and 2015, we have 1,600,000 reports, of which we know 1,041,219 were closed – 887,468 with no action. That’s around 86 per cent for the five years, including 2010-11.
        In 2015, we have 153,038 cases closed, 132,772 with no action. That is also 86 per cent.

        We can’t talk about the number that led to a successful prosecution because the Guardian figures don’t include them.

  3. John

    Again Mike, another one of your blog articles that I’m afraid to say I completely and utterly AGREE with! The MEDIA are one of the BIGGEST PROBLEMS we have in this country. It’s a pity that your blogs couldn’t be converted into newspaper articles and then published up and down the country (although I understand you have links to the Star newspaper that Corbyn reads ?)

  4. Holly

    I agree with the sentiment of your post entirely, but I’m going to offer some friendly criticism on a little part of it! Your figures aren’t up to date, the latest DWP figures are 0.8% not 0.7% (that was from the previous estimation a few years ago). I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a dick, but linking to another blog post to support your figure isn’t great if you want readers to trust your information… Here’s the latest figures
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/473968/fraud-and-error-stats-release-fy-2014-15.pdf

  5. Jim

    Funny that, I know someone that is off work long term due to a bad back but can then landscape their whole garden themselves, including laying a multitude of large paving slabs; another that will not take medication for a week before their disability review and who also then turns up in a wheel chair when they are perfectly capable of walking without issue, another that claims the higher rate of disability and yet has no issues in private – they even do the dying phone voice when they answer a call, only to talk normally when you start talking.. I’m sure there are lots of genuine claims, but there are lots of others milking the system too!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yeah, funny, that.
      Of course there are fraudulent claims.
      But I’m willing to bet that some of the people you think are fraudsters are, in fact, genuine.

    2. Tony Dean

      Jim, do you drive a taxi? (A serious question by the way.) Because a significant number of taxi drivers appear to not only be psychic, they can diagnose medical problems just by looking at someone, and also know all of their personal details and their financial details as well. I suspect you are one of the 85%-99.69% who only THINK they know a fraud.
      From personal experience of helping several people who some (expletive deleted) had maliciously accused of benefit fraud anonymously, getting to know the necessary detail about them to fend off the DWP investigators takes time and the written permission of the falsely accused to find out about them.
      I ended knowing far more personal details about them than I wish to know about anyone.
      That is why people who maliciously accuse people of benefit fraud should be named so the falsely accused can sue them.

    3. John

      As Mike as stated, there will always be people who ‘milk’ the system, and ‘Jeremy Kyle’ types who put in fraud claims. Always have been and always WILL be. I very much believe that these people are in the minority though. And don’t forget, I understand that there are ‘fraud’ teams within the DWP that are supposed to investigate any suspected cases of fraud. In fact, I remember some program being on not so long ago, where we saw these investigators that had video recorded evidence of these people, and had used that evidence to prosecute.

    4. wildswimmerpete

      @Jim
      I can’t walk much further than 100m without getting breathless – I’ve got £20,000-worth of electronics in my chest that’s keeping my heart beating, yet I’ve just done 82 lengths of my local pool (that’s 2km) without distress. Go figure.

  6. Spamlet

    The government attack on benefit fraud is a smokescreen to deflect the public from the rest of government fraud. The NAO reported, on 23 Feb, that apart from benefit and tax credit fraud the government makes little effort to check fraud, and only reports a tiny (.02%, when 3-5% would be expected) fraction of what would be expected in their own departments:

    “The exact scale of fraud within government is unknown but excluding tax credit and benefit fraud, detected fraud in 2014-15 across government was equivalent to only 0.02% (£72.9 million) of total expenditure (£306 billion) according to a report by the National Audit Office. However there is a large disparity between what fraud and error is reported and what other available estimates suggest might be occurring which needs explaining.

    The UK government detected fraud figure of 0.02% of expenditure is significantly lower than some estimates of 3-5% in the EU and US. While these comparisons need to be treated with caution, it suggests there could be significant fraud and error which is unreported or undetected and losses which are not being adequately addressed. Given current fiscal challenges, reducing the level of fraud is one potential way of making savings while protecting services.

    Government lacks a clear understanding of the scale of the fraud problem and departments vary in their ability to identify and address fraud risks. The data that does exist is patchy, inconsistent and of variable quality. The most comprehensive data relates to areas of known risk – tax credit and benefit fraud – but information across the rest of government is clearly incomplete.  It is difficult to formulate solutions if the scale and nature of the problem is unknown.”

    https://www.nao.org.uk/report/fraud-landscape-review/‎

    So, as you see, the poor are just an easy target, and a handy scapegoat to cover for the real gross fraudsters at higher levels.

    We need to see that fraud reporting line extended to report businesses, gov depts, and their numerous ‘consultants’.

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