Confusion leads to benefit fraud

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People who commit benefit fraud may simply have been desperate for money, confused about the system or unaware they were doing anything wrong, according to the Policy Studies Institute.

Benefit fraud is estimated by the Government to cost the Exchequer around pounds 4bn every year, and prosecutions have doubled since 1990-1 to reach 9,546 in 1994-5.

The report, carried out for the Department of Social Security, found that tough policies to deter people from breaking the rules were unlikely to work, however because few think that they are committing a real crime, and even those who admit they are doing wrong see no alternative.

Many were confused by the complexity of the benefits system and were sometimes quite unaware that they were doing wrong.

The most effective way of tackling benefit fraud is through simplification of social security rules, coupled with clearer instructions and firm warnings. Tough prosecution policies should be targeted at the few premeditated and persistent offenders, the report argues.