HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc275-6W
Mr. Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate she has made of the level of benefit fraud within the social security system; and what plans she has to tackle it. [63176]

Mr. McFall

Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Social Security Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Thompson, and I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Chris Thompson to Mr. Nigel Evans, dated 10 December 1998: I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question about the estimated levels of fraud within the social security system and plans to tackle such fraud. The Social Security Agency is in the process of estimating the levels of fraud in the benefit system. The Agency is using a methodology, known as Benefit Review, which as been successfully used by the Benefits Agency to estimate the levels of fraud in Great Britain. As regards its plans to tackle fraud the Agency is committed to minimising opportunities for fraud and abuse within the social security system. In recent years the Agency has been working even more closely with a wide range of colleagues and other parties to provide a coherent and focused effort in combating fraud and abuse. These include the Benefits Agency in Great Britain, Child Support Agency and Housing Executive in Northern Ireland as well as counterparts in the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs in the Republic of Ireland. The Agency is undertaking a wide range of initiatives, which mirror similar work in the Benefits Agency, designed to provide an estimate of the level of fraud within benefit systems, to secure the gateway to benefit systems and to detect and prosecute those who seek to defraud the system. This programme of initiatives is being closely monitored and updated on a regular basis to take account of new developments which may emanate from the Benefits Agency or from new Ministerial objectives. I have recently set up a new Benefit Security Directorate to provide a greater focus and to co-ordinate the programme of work. I can assure you that the Agency will continue to seek new ways of ensuring that resources are targeted effectively at known areas of risk and that expenditure loss through fraud is kept to a minimum. I hope this explains the position for you but I would be happy to provide any further information you require.

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