Welfare: Benefit fraud swallows pounds 2.8bn

The Government lost pounds 2.8bn through benefit fraud and errors - one twelfth of the total bill - according to a report published today.

As a result Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, has refused to give a clean bill of health to the finances of the Department of Social Security. He estimates that Income Support fraud has gone up by 25 per cent in two years, to pounds 1.77bn.

Although there were no directly comparable figures for previous years, initiatives to cut out errors seemed to be having little effect. One in five benefit assessments were found to be wrong in 1996-97 - the same figure as in 1995-96. However, the Government saved pounds 691m on the Jobseekers' Allowance, partly because the new benefit deterred claimants.