HC Deb 14 April 2003 vol 403 cc647-8W
Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the work of his Department's Joint Working Unit. [108691]

Malcolm Wicks

Joint Working Unit (JWU) was set up in April 2001 as a result of recommendations made following reports produced by Lord Grabiner into the informal economy and the Scampion report countering benefit fraud in the then Department of Social Security.

The main focus of the JWU's work is to promote, encourage and facilitate joined-up working across central government departments and with local authorities and to act as formal stewards of the powers enacted by the Social Security Fraud Act 2001.

Examples of joint activities with other government departments include the Joint Shadow Economy Teams, which are made up of members from this Department, Her Majesty's Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue. The aim of the teams is to bring those working within the informal economy into the real tax paying economy and keep them there. The Joint Fashion Industry Teams focus on those working in the fashion industry, looking at businesses who are suspected to be potentially, collusive or non-compliant employers. Operation Gangmaster was initially set up to investigate the use of agricultural gangmasters and their methods of operating, and has now widened to include other labour providers who demonstrate non-compliant behaviour.

Examples of joint activities with local authorities include Joint Regional Boards who work to develop region-specific counter-fraud strategies. The strategies are then implemented through Joint Operational Boards. JWU also acts as the Departmental contact for local authority groups such as the National Anti-fraud Network, the London Team Against Fraud and the Local Authority Investigation Officers Group. The JWU also supports the implementation of a joined-up intelligence-led investigative process for local authorities. It is currently working with Nottingham and Cardiff authorities by co-locating Intelligence Officers within the East Midlands and Wales Operational Intelligence Units.

Together with the Departmental Professional Standards Unit, JWU supports local authorities, the National Anti-fraud Network and Operational Intelligence Units on all aspects of the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 and its associated powers. This function includes ensuring the Fraud Act powers are understood and implemented effectively, accurately, securely and efficiently. The Unit is also responsible for the management of the relationship with our external information providers, and the provision of advice and expert guidance to front-line staff in both the Department and local authorities.

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