MPs fear benefit reforms will open door to fraudsters

Committee highlights concerns that IT system will have trouble distinguishing between genuine and fraudulent claims

MPs raised fears today that the Government's huge welfare shake-up will leave the benefits system more vulnerable to fraud.

A report by the Communities and Local Government Committee highlighted several concerns about Universal Credit, which will be implemented nationally from October and replaces a string of benefits such as housing benefit and child tax credits.

The committee highlighted concerns raised during an inquiry into the changes that the IT system under Universal Credit will have trouble distinguishing between genuine and fraudulent claims.

One council told the committee its understanding was that the system would not work from local authority property databases so it would not be able to detect automatically, as local systems did now, when several people made a housing benefit claim for the same property.

A new fraud detection service, called Iris, is being built into Universal Credit which the committee was told does have a similar database to that used by local authorities for detecting housing benefit fraud.

But the committee's report said it is "worrying that the system still seems to be at the development stage".

The committee also raised concerns that during a transition period as the scheme gets under way, there will be an exodus of experienced local authority housing department staff, who will quit due to uncertainty over their future prospects, which "will leave the system more open to fraud".

The committee said the Government must make sure that local authorities have the admin funding they need to manage the transition to Universal Credit and stop staff leaving prematurely.

Universal Credit is being introduced in gradual stages over several years, with the national rollout following several "pathfinder" pilot projects taking place from this month.

Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said evidence heard by the committee that systems for fraud detection were still in their early stages was "extremely concerning given the advanced state of implementation".

He said: "The Government must act to provide assurance that the benefit system will not be left vulnerable to fraud either during or after the transition. And it must do so urgently."

The committee said the landmark changes mark the "most significant reforms to the welfare system for 60 years".

The Government wants to simplify the existing benefits system, so that it is easier for claimants to manage their own finances and make the transition into work.

Under Universal Credit, a single unified benefit payment will take in income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credits, working tax credits and housing benefit.

But the committee also highlighted concerns that the new Universal Credit scheme could result in increased rent arrears as housing support will be paid directly to tenants instead of landlords.

It urged the Government to give a clear definition of the circumstances under which a tenant would be considered "vulnerable", and would therefore have their rent paid directly to the landlord.

The committee also said that the Government should be doing more to raise awareness about the changes and advising claimants to contact their local authority to find out more through advertising.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said: "Universal Credit will cut benefit fraud by £200 million a year and we are confident that our IT systems will be strong enough to protect us from the threat of fraud.

"We have been running pilot projects with local authorities to ensure that those people who can't manage with monthly or direct payments get the support they need."

PA

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Senior BI Engineer (BI/MI, Data Mining)

£60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus & Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior BI Enginee...

Retail Promotions Manager – TV and Film Catalogue

Up to £171 PAYE per day (equal to 40 – 45K ) : Sauce Recruitment: This is a te...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Level 3 or above Ear...

Special Needs teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Need teachers required t...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on