Benefit overpayments hit £3.8bn last year

3 Sep 18

Wrongful benefit payments increased to £3.8bn last year, official government figures have shown.

Benefit payments made in error made up 2.1% of total payments in 2017-18, according to a Department for Work and Pensions report on fraud and error in the benefit system.

The level of overpayments recorded by the DWP represents a 2% increase from the 2016-17 financial year – from £3.6bn to £3.8bn.  

The highest rates of overpayments occurred in employment support allowance where the monetary value of overpayments jumped from £590m in 2016-17 to £650m 2017-18.

Also, the rate of overpayments on jobseeker’s allowance increased between 2016-17 and 2017-18 from 6.1% to 6.3%, the highest recorded rate.

However, fraud-related overpayments in jobseekers allowance decreased from 5.0% in 2016-17 to 4.3% in 2017-18.

In universal credit, the rate of fraud overpayments was 4.7% (£150m), up from 3.2% in 2016/17. The largest cause of universal credit fraud was living together.

The fraud and error document said: “Not all of these overpayments are lost, as the department can recover overpayments.”

In response to the figures, a DWP spokesperson said: “Last year we recovered a record £1.1bn, with over 5,000 people convicted.

“Levels of benefit fraud remain very low, but we are tackling the small minority who try to cheat the system by working closely with police and local authorities, developing new fraud detection technology and increasing the size of our financial investigations unit.”

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