Social welfare tip-offs up 60 per cent

The figures showed the department?s commitment to 'stamping out welfare fraud and abuse', Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said.

The figures showed the department?s commitment to 'stamping out welfare fraud and abuse', Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said.

Fri, Mar 8, 2013, 00:00

Tips-offs on suspected social welfare fraud increased by 60 per cent last year, a report by the Department of Social Protection has shown.

There were 28,000 reports by members of the public, up from 16,900 in 2011, it found.

Most reports of suspected fraud related to people working and claiming benefits (42 per cent), followed by people cohabiting but not informing the department (25 per cent) and people working outside Ireland (5 per cent).

Over 18,000 of these reports were sent forward for examination. Almost 10,000 of these reports were not examined further due to lack of information, no claim being made or the information not impacting on entitlement.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said the outcome from these investigations had been "significant". There had been a "change in culture", she told RTÉ radio, thanking those who made reports of suspect fraud.

Last year, the Department of Social Protection saved €669m though control and fraud prevention measures, €24m over its target, according to the progress report on the Department’s fraud initiative released today.

Savings relate to money that would have been paid out but for the control measures.  The measures don’t deal with “errors”or “inefficiencies” they “deal with situations where people are wrongly claiming,”Ms Burton said. Examples include mail-shots getting welfare recipients to confirm they meet conditions, medical recertification and anti-fraud investigations.

One parent family payments and pensions each made up a quarter of the control and fraud savings. This was followed by jobseeker payments (14 per cent), illness payments (13 per cent) and child benefit (8 per cent).

Among the problems on the rise are "people taking on multiple identities and making different claims in different parts of the country" and Irish people going to live abroad but continuing to claim social welfare, Ms Burton said.

Last year 161 cases of fraud were referred for prosecution and a further 84 cases were referred to the Garda. At the end of 2012, 675 welfare cases were in the courts system.

In terms of money saved, the department was behind on 2012 targets on jobseeker payments by 11 per cent and on illness payments by 27 per cent. However it was €7.35m or 61 per cent ahead on targets set for control savings for carer payments.

In terms of cases examined, reviews of individual social welfare claims reached one million, or 15,000 ahead of target , according to the report. Reviews of carers payments cases were almost five times the target the target, the report shows.

Ms Burton set next year’s target at €710m.

The figures showed the department’s commitment to “stamping out welfare fraud and abuse”, Ms Burton said.

Her twin aims were to “ensure we protect the vulnerable and purse those who try to defraud the system,” she said.

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