NI loses nearly £60m in benefit fraud in 2018-19

2 Aug 19

Northern Ireland’s Department for Communities lost nearly £60m to benefit fraud last year.

The department’s accounts, published on Tuesday, showed the value of benefit fraud in Northern Ireland increased from £43.5m in 2014-15 to £56.2m in 2018-19.

As a percentage of total benefit spending (of £5.46bn), however, it rose only slightly during that time from 0.8% to 0.9%.

Employment and Support Allowance and housing benefit to tenants were the benefits with by far the biggest estimated loss to fraud last year, at £20.7m and £17.5m respectively.

Eliminating fraud has been a “long-standing commitment” for the department, according to the budget document.

Its strategy includes strengthening sanctions for those caught and publicising tough punishments.

And it claims its efforts are working: total overpayments, including error (by both the department and benefit recipients) as well as fraud, have remained at 1.2% of total expenditure or lower for the last decade.

The department’s most recent ‘weekly fraud review’ includes details of several cases of fraudsters being fined, and some given suspended sentences by the courts.

The largest overpayment to be repaid to the department was £20,548.36, which was given to a 63-year-old man, convicted of failing to declare an occupational pension while claiming benefits he was not entitled to.

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