Public reporting 500 ‘suspicions’ of welfare fraud weekly

Almost 5,000 complaints received since Varadkar ‘cheats’ campaign, says Doherty

 

Reports by members of the public of suspected social welfare fraud are currently averaging 500 each week.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said that, since the April 18th launch of the social welfare fraud campaign by her predecessor, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, almost 5,000 complaints of suspected fraud or wrongdoing had been received from the public.

There were 1,482 “suspicions” of social welfare fraud reported in the State in the past three weeks alone.

No figures have, however, been given for the number of allegations that have been confirmed as fraud since the Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign began.

With 3,322 complaints for the same period last year, Ms Doherty confirmed there had been a rise of almost 50 per cent in the number of complaints from members of the public.

The Minister released the figures in response to parliamentary questions from Sinn Féin social protection spokesman John Brady.

“We don’t know how many are genuine calls or whether it’s a neighbour trying to get one up,” said the Wicklow TD.

Mr Brady said Mr Varadkar’s campaign cost more than €200,000, which worked out at €130 for each one of the extra 1,532 reports since this time last year.

Real motivation

He said it begged the question, what was the real motivation “behind the whole costly campaign, when there were a considerable number of calls last year anyway”?

Ms Doherty said the reports were being examined for follow-up action, but it should be noted that “all reports received do not lead to an investigation”.

Reports are examined first for relevance and to identify the person reported and then establish if they receive social welfare. If sufficient information is given to warrant further inquiries, the report is referred to the relevant section of the department or the social welfare inspectorate.

“A payment will not be suspended or stopped on the basis of the report received from a member of the public,” Ms Doherty said.

On Saturday, a spokeswoman from the Department of Social Protection said: “A determination of fraud can only be made after a detailed investigation by a social welfare inspector (SWI) and the making of a revised decision under the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005 by one of the Department’s deciding officers.

“This process takes time and the reports made over the last few weeks are now being examined and will be referred for follow-up action by the department, where this is warranted based on the information provided.”