Released on 11 April 2005 News
Benefit fraudsters in south Warwickshire are being warned that they will be caught. The warning comes from Stratford-on-Avon District Council after the recent prosecution of a landlord who claimed housing benefits they were not entitled to.
£6,000 had to be paid back to the council, and the fraudster was fined £600 plus £350 costs. Other similar cases have resulted in formal cautions and financial penalties being imposed. This year (2004/05) 15 sanctions have been applied.
"People needing benefits should get their full entitlement, but fraudsters will be prosecuted," said Cllr Tony Dixon, the district council's portfolio holder for health and housing.
"Claimants and landlords have a responsibility to tell us about changes in their circumstances. If they fail to report any change they might get less than they are entitled to, but it could also lead to claimants getting more than they should, which is fraud.
"This year the council has identified and commenced recovery of £86,000 worth of benefit fraudulently claimed. Our recovery rate of 84% puts us in the top quartile of all councils.
"We are encouraged by the government to use the powers at our disposal as a deterrent to fraud and abuse of the benefit system. These powers include obtaining details from employers, who may themselves be penalised if they do not comply with requests for information."
Recent cases have shown that magistrates and judges will hand down sentences ranging from fines to imprisonment, and the message is that benefit offences are crimes against the public at large in which everyone is a victim. Cheating the system has become socially unacceptable and confidential reporting of potential offences is encouraged using a hotline - 01789 260486 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org."
The District Council uses a government scheme called the Verification Framework to ensure anyone claiming benefit gets their full entitlement. The scheme cuts down on mistakes and reduces fraud by ensuring every benefit claim is checked before any payment is made.
For further details contactGeoff Bradley, internal audit manager