Benefits - Fraud Investigation
- National hotline: 0800 854 440
- Local hotline: 0115 907 1042 and 0115 907 1044
All calls are treated in the strictest confidence.
Anonymous calls are accepted.
We have a statutory duty under section 151 of the Local Government Finance Act 1972 to make arrangements for the proper administration of financial affairs; this includes the prevention and detection of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support fraud.
We have a dedicated Investigation Unit responsible for allegations of suspected fraud.
We aim to investigate these cases and make recommendations about its findings to the Benefits Section for adjudication. In this way it maintains its independence.
We are committed to the prevention and detection of benefit fraud and the protection of public money.
The main objectives are
- Prevention: By establishing systems of control and procedures to seek to ensure that only genuine claims are processed and paid
- Detection: By investigating and, where appropriate, recommending the disallowance or reassessment of fraudulent or irregular applications and existing claims
- Deterrence: By creating and developing a culture which discourages applicants from making false claims and ensuring that those clients who receive benefit fulfil their responsibilities by means of suitable publicity and overall awareness.
All investigations are carried out in a professional, objective and efficient manner.
A person may be prosecuted without an interview under caution.
An interview under caution is usually necessary to establish further information, or to put the information obtained to the person/s under caution.
These interviews will be conducted in accordance with the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
If prosecution is considered appropriate, any overpayment, including any fraudulent overpayment, may be recovered without prejudice.
In all cases we must apply the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998.
Alternatives to prosecution
When deciding whether a case should be prosecuted in the courts, other alternatives will be considered. This includes cautions and administrative penalties.
A formal caution will usually be considered appropriate where the authority has a fraudulent overpayment under £2000. The decision to caution the offender will be made in accordance with Home Office Guidelines.
Where the offender refuses a caution, we will consider a prosecution. Having accepted a caution, should the offender re-offend, prosecution will be considered.
Section 155A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 as amended by Section 15 of the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997 allows us to apply a penalty as an alternative to prosecution at 30 per cent of the total overpayment.
Upon accepting the penalty the claimant has 28 days to change their mind.
If a penalty is not accepted or is withdrawn the local authority must be prepared to prosecute, therefore all cases must be up to prosecution standard.
Administrative penalties will generally be considered for fraudulent overpayments of up to £2000 if it is in the public interest. In the majority of these cases we will make an offer of a 30 per cent penalty of the amount of the overpayment. The Penalty amount will be added to the overpayment, which is recoverable.
It should be noted that the offer of a Penalty will be made in a special interview. Penalties can only be offered if the case could be brought to prosecution. The offender will be told at the interview:
- It is not an interview under caution
- Acceptance of the Penalty is not a declaration of guilt
- The recovery of the Penalty will occur in the same way as the recovery of the Overpayment
- They have 28 days in which to change their mind should they accept the Penalty, in the event of non-acceptance prosecution may be instituted
- Failure to repay the debt or default on instalments will result in them facing civil proceedings for recovery.
All Interviews Under Caution will be conducted by the Benefit Fraud Investigation Officer and any Administrative Penalty interviews will be conducted by an appropriate senior officer.
Further Information can also be obtained from the GOV.UK Website.