Northern Ireland Assembly to tackle benefit fraud
Assembly members today gave Northern Ireland Social Development Minister Mr Nigel Dodds their unanimous support for measures to combat repeat benefit fraud and to increase welfare payments in line with inflation.
MLAs unanimously approved a series of regulations introduced by Mr Dodds uprating benefits and introducing more severe penalties on those who regularly defraud the welfare state.
Urging MLAs to back the measures, the minister told the Assembly: "My department spends over £3 billion on social security and it is our duty to make sure the system is secure from fraud and error so that the right money goes to the right people at the right times.
"The loss of benefit provisions form part of the continuing welfare reform programme. For the vast majority of people who cheat on their benefits, their first conviction is their last but for those who continue to offend, it is appropriate that an offence should be brought into play.
"The Social Security (Loss of Benefits) Regulations introduce powers that will provide a deterrent to those considering committing further benefit offences."
Mr Dodds told the Assembly the measures would see penalties applied in a uniform manner across all sanctionable benefits available to repeat offenders.
It would also penalise those who switch claims for child benefit by hiding behind their partners.