HC Deb 24 March 2003 vol 402 cc99-100W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on(a) the objectives of the forthcoming media campaign against benefit fraud and (b) its planned budget. [101552]

Malcolm Wicks

The Targeting Fraud campaign is part of our long-term strategy to underline 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. We have adapted our strategy to keep messages fresh as we respond to the evaluation of the advertising. We will be considering the future development of the campaign in the light of the evaluation of the latest phase, which ran from September 2001 to March 2002.

Expenditure on the pilot phase of the campaign was £2.2 million spanning the financial years 1999–2000 and 2000–01. The initial spell of national advertising in March 2001 cost £4.6 million and £8.9 million was spent on the campaign running from September 2001 to March 2002.

Kevin Brennan

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many individual cases of benefit have been written off in the last five years; and what their financial value was. [98426]

Malcolm Wicks

[holding answer 25 February 2003]As part of our strategy to reduce losses from fraud and error and improve the collection of debt, in April 2001 we established the Debt Management organisation within the Department. The key priorities of Debt Management include achieving an increase in overall recoveries and a long-term reduction in debt stocks, and improving the financial control of processes and the overall efficiency of debt organisation through the establishment of specialised Debt Centres.

In the financial year 2001–02 approximately 102,000 individual overpayments with a total value of £54 million were written off for a variety of reasons, including cases where recovery would have caused excessive hardship, or would not have been cost effective.

In addition, under the easement package agreed with HMT approximately 390,000 overpayments worth approximately £95 million that were identified as non recoverable from the outset were written off on the basis of an average value rather than an actual calculation. Information for earlier years is not available.

Forward to