New £600m plan to fight benefit fraud to be unveiled

The plan will involve 2,000 trained specialists reviewing two million universal credit claims over the next five years.

(PA)
(PA)

A new £600 million plan to fight benefit fraud and save the taxpayer £2 billion over the next three years is to be unveiled by the Government.

The plan will involve 2,000 trained specialists reviewing two million universal credit claims over the next five years.

DWP officers will also be bolstered with new powers, including to undertake arrests, execute warrants, conduct searches and seize evidence.

A new civil penalty to ensure those who commit fraud face “adequate” punishment has also been proposed, along with increased powers to require banks to securely share data on a larger scale.

Presently, the DWP can only request data from banks on individuals it has already identified. However the new powers will allow the department to identify potentially fraudulent claims, by finding out if they have too much in savings or live abroad.

The plan, which will be published in full on Thursday, also includes powers that will improve the department’s access to information from an as yet unspecified “wider range” of organisations.

In a statement announcing the plan, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said that the welfare system is not a “cash machine for callous criminals”.

“The welfare system is there to help the most vulnerable,” she said.

“It is not a cash machine for callous criminals and it’s vital that the Government ensures money is well spent.”

She added that the plan will allow the department to fight fraud in the “digital age”.

“This plan outlines what we need to fight fraud in 2022 and into the future,” she said.

“Thousands of trained specialists, combined with targeted new tools and powers, will mean we can keep up with fraud in today’s digital age and prevent, detect and deter those who would try to cheat the system.”

While Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister for Government efficiency, said that taxpayers must have confidence in where their money goes.

“Taxpayers must have confidence that money spent on welfare reaches those who really need it”, he said.

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