BENEFIT FRAUD PUNISHMENT: What is benefit fraud and how does the Department for Work and Pensions catch welfare cheats?
As a rule, committing benefit fraud occurs in one of two different ways:
- By being dishonest to help you receive benefits.
- Intentionally failing to report a change in your circumstances.
The actions of benefit frauds cost taxpayers millions of pounds every year in the United Kingdom.
What should you do if you consider someone is committing benefit fraud?
The UK Government encourages you to report someone who is committing benefit fraud to stop them abusing the system. The fact is, they may be taking essential money away from people who are most needy.
Note: Information about the DWP fraud investigation process is also available in Welsh language (Cymraeg).
Benefits Investigation Process: What Happens?
One of the authorities will contact you if they suspect you of committing benefits fraud. It could be:
- Your local authority or the Service and Personnel and Veterans Agency.
- The Department for Work and Pensions or HM Revenue and Customs.
You may get a visit by Fraud Investigation Officers (FIO). They may also ask you to attend an interview to discuss your claim.
Your benefits might stop while they investigate the matter. A benefit fraud letter informs you if they are stopping your payments. The benefit fraud letter also tells you what will happen next.
Interview Under Caution
Fraud Investigation Officers gather information and facts about your case. They will then decide whether they need to take any further action or not.
The ‘interview under caution’ is formal dialogue that often gets recorded. In some cases, it may become part of a criminal investigation. You can get help and information about the ‘interview under caution’ procedure from the Citizen’s Advice office.
DWP Punishment for Benefit Fraud
What happens if a DWP fraud investigator finds evidence that you have committed, or you are committing, benefit fraud?
There are penalties for those who abuse the social security system. First, you must repay overpaid benefits to the authority. Then, any or all the following may also occur:
- You could receive a summons to court.
- You might receive a benefit fraud penalty between £350 and £5,000 (instead of going to court).
- Your benefit payments may reduce or the money might stop altogether.
Losing Your Benefits
Being convicted of fraud means your benefits can get reduced or completely stopped. The number of times you have committed the offence determines how long they stop for. But, in some severe cases it can be up to three (3) years.
Not all benefits can reduce or get cancelled for cheating on welfare. But, committing fraud on one which cannot stop may result in a reduction in your other benefits.
Sanctionable Benefits (can be stopped)
Allowances that can reduce or stop after the benefit fraud investigation process UK are ‘sanctionable benefits‘. They include:
- Carer’s Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Industrial Death Benefit
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Industrial Injuries Reduced Earnings Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Retirement Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Unemployability Supplement
- Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Pension Credit
- Universal Credit
- War Disablement Pension
- War Widow’s Pension
- War Pension Unemployability Supplement
- War Pension Allowance for Lower Standard of Occupation
- Widowed Mother’s/Parent’s Allowance
- Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance
- Working Tax Credit
Non-sanctionable Benefits (cannot be stopped directly)
Allowances that cannot reduce or stop after the DWP benefit fraud investigation process are ‘non-sanctionable benefits‘. They include:
- Attendance Allowance
- Bereavement Payment
- Bereavement Support Payment
- Child Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Christmas Bonus
- Disability Living Allowance
- Graduated Retirement Benefit
- Guardian’s Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Constant Attendance Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
- Industrial Injuries Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance (where a Disablement Pension is payable)
- Personal Independence Payments
- State Pension
- Social Fund Payments
- War Pension Constant Attendance Allowance
- War Pension Exceptionally Severe Disablement Allowance
- War Pension Mobility Supplement