Benefit fraud is the conscious act of claiming a benefit which you are not legally entitled to. This can be achieved through either lying about your personal information or failing to inform the government regarding a change to your situation. There are a vast range of benefits which an individual can claim, and therefore benefit fraud is widespread and common. The huge financial cost which benefit fraud inflicts upon the UK government has led to a crackdown.
The welfare state in the UK has established a number of different types of benefits to help British citizens who are struggling in different areas. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are responsible for recognising when benefit fraud has taken place and have published recent studies which expose that benefit fraud cost the government approximately £900 million from 2008 to 2009.
Benefit fraud can be committed by an individual either lying or failing to present vital information which is required to make the decision about whether an individual qualifies for a UK benefit. This type of vital information includes:
- Household income
- Whether they live alone or with a partner who contributes to the household income
- The number of properties or land that an individual owns
If an individual lies about any of the above information or fails to document a change in any of the above information, then they will face penalties which include:
- A loss of the benefits that were being claimed for up to 3 years
- Repayment of the money which has been dishonestly claimed across several years
- Prosecution and time in prison
- A criminal record which will affect movements in the future
- A fine of up to £5,000 which can be imposed instead of a criminal record
There are exceptions where, even if an individual has committed benefit fraud, certain benefits cannot be stopped:
- Child benefit
- Child tax credit
- Council tax benefit
- Disability living allowance
- War pension mobility supplement
However, if you do commit benefit fraud on one of the above benefits which cannot be stopped, the other benefits which are claimed can be stopped.
In July 2018 a former Conservative Councillor from Fylde named Albert Pounder, 74 years old, was found guilty of benefit fraud. Pounder was convicted of £10,000 claimed through disability benefit fraud, which he was not qualified to claim for. This vast amount of money had been claimed by Pounder from 2014 to 2016. Preston Crown Court found Pounder guilty of two charges of benefit fraud as they found that he should not have claimed benefits as he was not entitled.
In 1995 Pounder claimed that walking was a big difficulty for him and that he could not complete a 50-yard distance without falling breathless, requiring assistance with walking, washing and essentially living. However, CCTV in 2015 of Pounder offers evidence that Pounder could walk with ease, even whilst conducting manual labour lifting tables.
The Department of Work and Pensions are skilled in investigating suspicious benefit claims, and if found guilty an individual will be subject to the penalties. Geraldine Thomas, 54, was recently found guilty for making fraudulent claims of income support, employment support, housing benefit and council tax. Thomas had been claiming benefits in all of these areas for five years, allowing her to gain up to £41,000 from the government, when she was not entitled to any of this money. Despite lying and claiming she lived alone, Thomas had lived with a partner since 2011, who also contributed to the household income. At Newport Crown Court Thomas was sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence and an order to retrieve the money and assets amassed from the claims.
Benefit fraud is a common form of fraudulent offence. If you are suspicious of an individual committing benefit fraud you should report this to the Department of Work and Pensions.