DWP staff given powers to search and arrest benefit claimants suspected of fraud

2,000 DWP employees given powers to make arrests, carry out warrant executions, conduct searches, and seize evidence.

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The “Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System” strategy was recently announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey. It explains how 2,000 trained professionals would assess over two million applications for Universal Credit over the next five years.

The DWP say this latest announcement is a part of increased efforts to guarantee that money is spent wisely and provide assurance to taxpayers that monies are distributed to those who are in need of assistance.

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Implenting the new proposal is expected to cost around £600Million but is forecast to save the government £2Billion over the next three years in reduced fraud.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will be aligned with other government agencies, such as HMRC, as a result of these measures, which also contain various additional powers.

The new plan outlines the manner in which DWP staff will be granted the authority to make arrests, carry out warrant executions, conduct searches, and seize evidence, all of which will increase their capability to deal with the most serious of instances.

In addition, the proposal suggests the establishment of a new civil penalty in order to guarantee that individuals who perpetrate fraud would face appropriate punishment.

In addition, the measures include the authority to compel organisations, including banks, to safely exchange data on a more widespread basis. At this time, the DWP is only allowed to seek information on people who can be identified.

Other measures include the creation of a ‘Fraud Prevention Advisory Group’ to bring together government and external experts to identify and develop new ways to crack down on fraudsters, including through more flexible and proactive use of data.

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Because of this change, the DWP will be able to proactively identify claims that may be fraudulent. For instance, they will be able to determine whether or not claimants have an excessive amount of savings or are living outside the country, both of which would render them ineligible for Universal Credit.

Additional powers will strengthen the department’s access to information from a wider range of organisations, which will result in an increased capacity on the part of the department to root out fraud inside the benefit system.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey said: “The welfare system is there to help the most vulnerable. It is not a cash machine for callous criminals and it’s vital that the government ensures money is well spent.

“Fraud is an ever-present threat and before the pandemic, our efforts brought fraud and error close to record lows.

“This plan outlines what we need to fight fraud in 2022 and into the future. Thousands of trained specialists, combined with targeted new tools and powers, will mean we can keep up with fraud in today’s digital age and prevent, detect and deter those who would try to cheat the system.”

Minister for Government Efficiency, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said: “Taxpayers must have confidence that money spent on welfare reaches those who really need it.

“This plan builds on the announcement of the new Public Sector Fraud Authority, which will use data analytics to recover money stolen from the taxpayer.”

The new powers will be granted by parliament, subject to securing time and approval.

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