Employers 'helping workers to claim dole': Fraud inspectors are cracking down on firms encouraging staff to 'sign on' illegally. Will Bennett reports

FRAUD investigators are uncovering a growing number of employers who are colluding with and sometimes actively helping workers who illegally claim unemployment benefit.

Some drive their workers to Department of Employment offices to sign on or give them time off to do so. Many pay lower wages because workers are also claiming benefit.

The department, which has set up a special team to combat collusion, said yesterday that last year 55 employers were prosecuted and another 71 cases are pending. Most were small companies employing less than 15 people. Graham Bambridge, the department's head of fraud investigations, said: 'We have discovered more collusion but this may be because we are more alert to it and are devoting more resources to it.'

David Hunt, Secretary of State for Employment, said: 'These are employers who are actively encouraging their workforce to claim unemployment benefit illegally by, for example, giving them time off and, in some cases, even driving them to Employment Service offices to sign on.

'This is a flagrant abuse of taxpayers' money and inspectors have my full support in cracking down on them. Moreover, this behaviour gives unscrupulous employers an unfair advantage over their competitors.'

Mr Hunt said it was 'an example of how the black economy corrodes the fabric of our society'.

The department yesterday announced the highest figures for unemployment benefit fraud investigations and prosecutions for several years and said it had saved the taxpayer almost pounds 45m in 1992-93.

Its 780 inspectors carried out 264,616 investigations, as a result of which there were 2,602 prosecutions and another 61,129 people withdrew their benefit claims. It is thought that about 250,000 out of nearly 3 million claimants may be getting benefit illegally.

Among areas targeted were seaside resorts in South Wales where 550 workers - including mini-cab drivers and employees in hotels, the catering industry and amusement arcades - withdrew their benefit claims and another 27 face prosecution.

More cases of 'travelling fraud', where people live in one area and work in another, were uncovered. Fifteen people from Nottinghamshire were prosecuted after being caught selling goods door-to-door on the South Coast.

In Kent, inspectors investigated 392 casual fruit and vegetable pickers, as a result of which 184 of them withdrew fraudulent claims. Out of 150 mini-cab drivers interviewed at Heathrow, west London, 107 were illegally getting benefit.

Most people are not prosecuted because of insufficient evidence, or because the cases are too minor. They usually take the investigators' advice that they should withdraw their claim.

Often the workers give false names to the investigators and employers. Sometimes these are of people they know, while others have called themselves after television personalities, football stars and even the Queen.

Mr Hunt said: 'The vast majority of benefit claimants are genuinely unemployed. It is an affront to them that a cynical few seek to defraud.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?