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A single integrated fraud investigation service going on pilot for four councils

Date: (10 October 2012)    |    

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A pilot for a single integrated fraud investigation service for four councils, with powers to probe and sanction all benefits and tax credit offences has been announced by the welfare reform minister Lord Freud.

An estimate, by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), put cost of benefit fraud and tax credit fraud and error at £5.3bn per year.
Currently, investigations into suspected wrongdoings were currently carried out by the DWP’s Fraud Investigation Service and by local authorities separately. Tax Credit fraud was currently investigated by HMRC.
Ministers believe the current 'silo-based' approach system was inefficient and wanted a Single Investigation Service from April next year which will also investigate Universal Credit fraud.
Speaking at the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation Annual Conference and Exhibition earlier this month, Lord Freud announced that Corby Borough Council, Glasgow City Council, the London Borough of Hillingdon and Wrexham Council will be going ahead to test the model for the single service.
He said the department would also look at how the Single Investigation Service could work in partnership with other fraud teams, for example when a housing fraud leading to the uncovering of a living together fraud or a criminal gang exploiting the benefits system wholesale.
Such system would save several man hours spent working across different branches of government as they try to catch the criminals.
He added that other councils which have not been involved as yet would also be asked to participate and engage in working together and move forward.
The success he said would be achieved only if all partners came together to help the department so as to make sure that services are delivered successfully on the ground.
In an impact statement the DWP published last year it admitted the plan was a "major project involving organisational changes, new IT infrastructure, and additional resource as workloads were bound to increase.
It said provision has been agreed for increasing the number of fraud investigators by around 200 and it expects an increase in the volume of sanctions of 14% considered independently of other changes to the sanctions regime and strategy, 21% including other changes.
The department says the move is an obvious choice as it seeks to bring together the organisations that deal with compliance to sit in the same single organisation that will be delivering Universal Credit.