HC Deb 23 July 1996 vol 282 cc286-8W
Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the initiatives undertaken to reduce fraud in the periods(a) April 1979 to May 1983,(b) June 1983 to May 1987, (c) June 1987 to March 1992 and (d) April 1992 to date; and what was the amount of fraud detected for each period in constant prices. [36833]

Mr. Heald

The information is not available in the format requested as details of initiatives undertaken prior to the creation of the Benefits Agency are not available. Such information as is available is as follows:

  • 1991 to March 1992
    • Sector Fraud organisation established.
    • National Organised Fraud branch established.
    • Introduction of free anti-fraud training for local authority investigators.
    • Publication of anti-fraud, good practice guide for local authorities.
  • April 1992 to date
    • Five year Security Strategy;
    • Post Office Reward Scheme;
    • Electronic Stop Notice, barcoding of order books;
    • Deployment of mobile bar code scanners in Post Offices;
    • Generalised Matching Service—development of data matching across Benefits Agency computer systems to identify customer inconsistencies and incorrectness which are likely to result in excess benefit payments.
    • Audit Trail Analysis System—to provide a computer tool to deter, detect and report on patterns of fraud and abuse;
    • Spotlight on Benefit Cheats campaign—a series of co-ordinated anti-fraud drives, targeting specific towns or geographical areas;
    • Freephone Fraud Hotline Pilot;
    • Extra visits and other checks of new and existing claims to benefit;
    • Investigation of employers who collude with their employees to make false claims;
    • Trial examining standards of documentary proof of identify at point of encashment;
    • Prisoners Project—automation of the interface between the Prison Service and the Benefits Agency in England and Wales to eliminate fraud by persons impersonating convicted prisoners;
    • Benefit Reviews to measure the scale of benefit fraud and incorrectness on major social security benefits;
    • Joint Benefits Agency/Contributions Agency National Insurance Number Project;
    • Hole punching of order books by Post Offices prior to return to Benefits Agency office;
    • Secure delivery of order books to Post Offices;
    • Ultra Violet lamps for Post Office use;
    • Redesign of girocheques and order books, including greater security measures;
    • Secure delivery of girocheques;
    • Benefits Agency and Post Office Counters Limited (BA/POCL)—procuring via a Private Finance Initiative the automation of Post Office counters, introducing the benefit payment card;
    • Development and improvement of Management Information Systems;
    • Development and improvement of Case Work Management;
    • Fraud Investigation National Database;
    • Search by Address facility on Departmental Central Index;
    • Change Management Project—changing the culture of staff and customers so that security becomes everyone's responsibility;
    • Improved verification procedures;
    • Child Benefit—creation and maintenance of register of stolen birth certificates.
    • Operation Rattle—aimed at people receiving Child Benefit but who are no longer entitled to it owing to their absence from Great Britain
    • Joint Child Support Agency (CSA and Benefits Agency (BA) pilot initiative to a BA fraud officer in Plymouth CSA Centre.
    • CSA cases referred to BA where fraud is suspected, including cases where reduced benefit directions have been accepted.
    • CSA and BA closer working project to identify improved joint working practices to identify and prevent benefit fraud in the most cost effective way.
    • Various joint operations with other Departments (e.g. Customs and Excise) and other bodies (e.g. the police) to detect and deter fraud.
    • A BA official seconded full-time with the National Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS).
    • 288
    • Appointment of a dedicated anti-fraud Minister (DSS).
    • Ministerial group on countering benefit fraud set up to oversee the development of measures to counter benefit fraud and insure effective co-ordination within Government and local authorities.
    • Counter Fraud Unit (currently being established in DSS) which will co-ordinate counter fraud activity within DSS and across Whitehall.
    • Rationalisation of the Departmental Central Index;
    • Benefits Agency review of internal fraud;
    • Private Sector Partnership—scoping work to test the suitability of future partnerships with the private sector. Currently considering fraud process efficiency and effectiveness.
    • Risk management—assessing and analysing risks so that they can be targeted and minimised;
    • A programme of activity to detect unreported changes of circumstances amongst customers residing in countries overseas;
    • Merger of the Benefits Agency and Employment Service fraud investigation services;
    • Introduction of the anti-fraud financial incentive scheme for local authorities.
    • Action against fraud roadshows—held in 20 different locations throughout the country to encourage local authority anti-fraud work.
    • Publication of the local authority Fraud Investigators' manual.
    • National fraud service level agreements between local authorities and both the Benefits Agency and Employment Service signed.
    • Challenge Funding scheme to encourage innovative and anti-fraud ideas (worth £8 million in 1996–97).
    • Revised anti-fraud financial incentives with higher rewards and stiffer penalties for poor performance authorities.
    • Introduction of the Housing Benefit Matching Service in July 1996 providing a data matching service for local authorities.
    • Establishment of organised Housing Benefit Fraud investigation team pilot.
    • Fraud savings are not available before 1986–87, information from 1986 is not available in the format requested. Fraud savings in 1995–96 prices for complete fiscal years are given in the table.
    • Figures for 1992–96 exclude the estimated savings achieved through the Security and Control Programme before 1995–96, which have yet to be finalised.

Annual fraud detection savings
Period 1995–96 1 Prices £ million
1986–1987 221
1987–1992 1,947
1992–1996 2,757.6
1 Prices have been uplifted using Retail Prices Index (RPI) mid year indices. The source for RPI data was "Economic Trends Annual Supplement—1996 Edition".

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