What is truth?

Social welfare fraud

Liz McManus
(Wicklow, Labour)

Question 86: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Affairs the estimated fraud rate within each scheme and the target savings she is setting for each scheme in 2010.

Mary Hanafin
(Minister, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)

In order to identify fraud and error levels in schemes the Department carries out detailed fraud and error surveys on individual schemes. These surveys provide evidence based indicators for the levels of fraud and error within those schemes at that particular time.

As reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General the percentage of expenditure resulting from fraud identified in these surveys ranged from 0% for pensioners, to 0.1% for Illness Benefit, 0.8% for the Family Income Supplement, 1.8% for Child Benefit, 2.3% for the Disability Allowance and 6.4% for the One Parent Family Payment. A fraud and error survey is currently underway on Jobseeker’s Allowance and the results of that will be available by quarter 2, 2010.

Although the level of fraud on most schemes is very low, within schemes, some categories of claimants can be a much higher risk than others and when these are identified the Department moves to address the issue.

Because of the resources involved, the Department’s goal is to carry out fraud and error surveys on each of the major schemes every two years. This frequency is considered reasonable having regard to the need to consider the impact of measures taken to address issues raised in previous surveys.

The amount of money recorded as control savings by the Department at the end of 2009 was €484 million. This represented an increase of €8 million on 2008 figures.

In 2009 over 750,000 claims were reviewed, 20% more than the target for the year. The total control savings target for 2010 is €533m.

Additional savings are being sought on the One Parent Family and Illness Benefit payments, bringing the total targets for these schemes to approximately €100m and €110m respectively. A target of €110m has also been set for pensions, including additional savings on the non-contributory scheme.

Over €82million is being targeted on Child Benefit, approximately €81m is being targeted on jobseeker’s payments and €16.5m is expected to be saved on carers payments.

The remaining sums are €17m on the Family Income Supplement, €10m on the Supplementary Welfare Allowance and €6m in the PAYE and PRSI areas.

The vast majority of people who seek a Social Welfare payment are doing so correctly and within their entitlement. However, I am determined to ensure that abuse of the social welfare system is prevented and is dealt with effectively when detected. To this end, the control programme of the Department is carefully monitored and the various measures are continuously refined to ensure that they remain effective. The 2010 targets take account of the extra anti-fraud powers provided in the Social Welfare Bill.

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