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29 May 2017

West Norfolk targets housing benefit fraud

West Norfolk council has now employed a new member of staff has been recruited to specifically investigate erroneous and fraudulent Housing Benefit claims.

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates fraud overpayments to make up 4.6pc of councils’ housing benefit expenditure for 2016/17.

The total Housing Benefit expenditure for West Norfolk for last year was just over £39m, so if the level of fraud was 4.6pc this would equate to a loss of approximately £1.8m.

Now extra funding has been made available by the Department of Work and Pensions, to enable local authorities to take on extra staff to review claims for fraud and error and to put these right.

The work will focus on checking earnings details against those held on HMRC database.

West Norfolk council leader Brian Long said:
Housing Benefit fraud is a big issue across the country, which is why funding has been made available to us to tackle it. I am sure that for most people it is a genuine mistake and they have simply forgotten to notify us of a change in their circumstances, rather than a serious attempt to commit fraud. However, if that means they are claiming money they are not entitled to, then we need to ensure those errors are corrected and that the money is paid back.

Claimants whose earnings details do not match will be contacted and given an opportunity to put the matter right. If they do not, then further action may be taken. People can notify us easily about any changes in their circumstances by going online at west-norfolk.gov.uk and completing the online form under benefits change of circumstances.
The new member of staff is on a 12 month temporary contract funded by the Department of Work and Pensions with the sole purpose of checking earnings details against HMRC records.

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, benefit fraud is a criminal offence and is treated differently to benefit overpayments. One example is deliberately failing to tell the benefit office about your true financial circumstances when you claimed the benefit.

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