Reports of welfare fraud up 2,500% since 2008

16 per cent of reports analysed saw welfare payments cut or stopped

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said  each and every report made by a member of the public is followed up. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said each and every report made by a member of the public is followed up. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 


New figures show a dramatic increase in anonymous tip-offs over suspected social welfare fraud, with more than 21,000 reports submitted to Government authorities so far this year.

The increase – up from just 1,044 five years ago, an increase of more than 2,500 per cent – highlights the extent of the cultural shift over recent years in reporting suspected fraud.

The majority of reports related to people allegedly working while claiming benefits – some 8,350 reports. Other reports related to allegations lone parents were cohabiting with partners and that people living outside the jurisdiction were claiming benefits .

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said that each and every report made by a member of the public is followed up.

In a statement, the Department of Social Protection said a payment is not suspended or stopped solely on the basis of an anonymous report. The anonymous report, however, may be a “trigger” for the instigation of a review of a recipient’s entitlement.

Internal briefing papers seen by The Irish Times suggest a minority of cases result in savings, however.

Anonymous reports
A survey of anonymous reports conducted recently found almost 16 per cent of the reports analysed resulted in welfare payments being stopped or reduced. Most reports did not contain sufficient information or else involved individuals who were legitimately claiming benefits.

However, the 16 per cent figure is considered by officials a conservative estimate as there were ongoing investigations in some of the surveyed cases.

The number of tip-offs hovered between 500 and 600 a year during the economic boom years. However, the number climbed rapidly as the economy deteriorated, suggesting that any tolerance for welfare abuse has begun to evaporate over recent years.

In 2008, a total of 1,044 reports were made, followed by almost 6,500 in 2009 and reports reached a new high of 28,022 last year. Latest figures up to November of this year show 21,008 reports had been made. The final end-of-year figure is likely to be significantly higher.


Record savings
The increase is welcome news for Ms Burton, who is expected to announce record savings of more than €700 million achieved by her department through targeting fraud and clerical errors during 2013.

In a statement, Minister Burton said the Government was committed to maintaining core welfare rates, while taking a zero-tolerance approach towards welfare fraud.

“These are my twin aims to ensure we protect the vulnerable and pursue those who try to defraud the system,” she said.

Her department has set itself an ever bigger target next year of €740 million in so-called “control measures”.

These include mail shots to social welfare recipients aimed at confirming that eligibility conditions continue to be met, direct reviews of entitlement by inspectors and medical re-certification or fraud and abuse investigations.

In total, more than one million reviews of individual social welfare claims are set to be carried out.

New measures are also being used to help secure extra savings. Social welfare inspectors now have powers to question people at ports and airports who they believe may be entering the country to claim social welfare fraudulently.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.