Find out what benefit fraud is, what to do if your benefit claim is investigated and where to get advice in this article.
What is benefit fraud?
A person in receipt of benefits (a claimant) can commit benefit fraud in two ways:
a) deliberately not reporting a change in their personal circumstances to the appropriate benefits agencies
b) being dishonest with benefits agencies about personal information with a view to securing benefits.
What happens if the claimant is suspected of committing benefit fraud?
If the claimant is suspected of committing benefit fraud, they may be contacted by an official from one of a number of governmental bodies, including:
- HM Revenue and Customs
- the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency
- their Local Authority.
Alternatively, Fraud Investigation Officers (FIOs) may invite the claimant to attend an interview to discuss the basis of their benefits claim.
During the benefits fraud investigation, the claimant’s benefits may be suspended and a letter issued to the claimant explaining the next steps in the process.
What happens to the claimant after a benefit fraud investigation has been concluded?
Once a benefit fraud investigation has been conducted, FIOs from the DWP will compile the facts of the case and make a decision as to whether to take further action against the claimant.
Action against the claimant may take the form of one or more of the following:
- a criminal prosecution
- a fine (in lieu of prosecution)
- a reduction or discontinuance in benefit
- an order for benefit repayment.
What will happen to the claimant’s benefits if they are convicted of benefit fraud?
If convicted of benefit fraud, the claimant will lose their benefit entitlement for up to three years. The length of time the claimant loses their entitlement is dependent on the number of times they have been convicted of benefit fraud.
Which benefits can be reduced or stopped altogether if the claimant is convicted of benefit fraud?
Not all benefit entitlement can be reduced or stopped if the claimant commits (or has committed) benefit fraud.
Benefits that can be reduced are known as ‘sanctionable benefits’ and include (but are not limited to):
- Carer’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Industrial Death Benefit.
Which benefits cannot be reduced or stopped altogether if the claimant is convicted of benefit fraud?
The claimant’s benefits that cannot be reduced or stropped following a conviction for benefit fraud are called ‘disqualifying benefits’.
These benefits include (but are not limited to):
- Health in Pregnancy Grant
- Maternity Allowance
- Pneumoconiosis (Workers’ Compensation) Act 1979
- Statutory Adoption Pay.