§ David Hamilton
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what measures he is taking to prevent fraudulent claims of benefits. 640W
§ Malcolm Wicks
Our strategy for tackling fraud focuses on prevention by tightening the gateway to benefits, making stringent checks to verify a person's identity and details of their claim at the outset.
The Department has introduced a range of measures to strengthen the evidence of identity procedures as well as improving the security of National Insurance Numbers (NINOs). People claiming benefits, including housing benefits, and anyone they are claiming benefit for, now have a statutory obligation to prove their identity, as provided for in the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997. This ensures that the NINOs being used belong to the people in question before any benefit is paid.
The Department introduced a Verification Framework in 1998 to help reduce the amount of fraud and error entering local authority benefit administration. The Framework provides local authorities with recommended minimum standards on the checks they must make to verify information provided by customers when assessing claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit. 80 per cent. of local authorities have so far signed up to the Framework.
The Targeting Fraud campaign is part of our longterm strategy to prevent fraud before it happens, underlining our message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated. Evaluation shows that public attitudes are moving in the right direction as a result of the campaign.
Jobcentre Plus is providing a more comprehensive and integrated service for all benefit claimants. One-to-one interviews create a personal environment where the full and accurate details of a claim can be established and customers can be reminded of their responsibility to notify us of changes to their circumstances.
We have made excellent progress in the fight against fraud and error. By March 2002 we had reduced fraud and error in income support and Jobseeker's allowance by 24 per cent. compared to 1998.
§ Malcolm Wicks
Following recommendations in the National Audit Office report, the Department is undertaking a literature survey of the research available into the effects of sanctions. This includes scrutiny of good practices and academic research of sanctions in analogous Government Departments worldwide.