Reports of social welfare fraud up 66% after publicity campaign
Campaign cost Department of Social Protection €206,000
Leo Varadkar said: ‘I am very satisfied that the campaign has been effective in raising the discussion around this topic’.
Reports made to the Department of Social Protection have increased by 66 per cent in the aftermath of the recently launched ‘Welfare Cheats Us All’ publicity campaign.
According to figures provided by Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, 3,377 reports of suspected social welfare fraud have been received by his department since the launch of the campaign, which has cost €206,000, on April 18th.
In a written Dáil reply, Mr Varadkar stated: “This compares with 2,034 reports received for the same period in 2016, an increase of over 66 per cent. These reports will be examined over the coming weeks and referred to the relevant scheme areas for appropriate follow-up action where this is warranted.”
In the reply to Deputies Ruth Coppinger, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady and Mick Wallace, Mr Varadkar stated: “My department did not incur any additional staffing costs arising from the campaign as staff were already in place and dedicated to control and anti-fraud work.”
He said: “I am very satisfied that the campaign has been effective in raising the discussion around this topic and was cost effective, as evidenced by the public support for it.”
Mr Varadkar confirmed that total overpayments raised by his department in 2016 amounted to €110 million and of this, customer fraud amounted to €41 million.
“Cases of this nature arise where a customer intentionally provides incomplete or inaccurate information in order to receive benefits or deliberately fails to inform the department of relevant changes in their circumstances.”
Mr Varadkar added: “While the €41 million is €5 million lower than the previous year and this is welcome, overall, I consider it to be unacceptable. I believe that any amount of fraud in the social welfare system is wrong and we must do everything we can to prevent it.”
*Overpayments due to customer mistakes last year totalled €46 million. Mr Varadkar said that some level of customer error could be expected in a system that processes 82 million payments every year and pays out €19.2 billion across 70 schemes.
*Edited at 10pm on June 6th, 2017