Benefit Fraud Inspectorate

Work and Pensions written statement – made on 26th January 2006.

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Photo of James Plaskitt James Plaskitt Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions

On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) has today announced its Phase 14 programme of work.

BFI inspections in this programme will include councils whose published performance figures indicate that they take longer than most to process claims for housing benefit. There can be a number of reasons for comparatively slow processing of claims. BFI inspection will determine the reasons for delays and seek to provide remedies. The councils include: Gateshead metropolitan borough council, Portsmouth city council, Shepway district council, Stevenage borough council and Walsall metropolitan borough council. Where this has been achieved, the councils will have the opportunity to demonstrate improvement in recent performance.

It is important to deter fraudsters by applying sanctions, including prosecutions; therefore BFI will inspect two authorities that in comparison to their caseload have applied few sanctions, including successful prosecutions. The authorities are Elmbridge borough council and Exeter city council.

BFI will also inspect four other authorities to provide assurance on a range of reported performance. These authorities are Dudley metropolitan borough council, Milton Keynes council, Reading borough council and Rushcliffe borough council.

I am pleased to announce that planned inspections of Castle Point borough council and South Ayrshire council will not go ahead because both councils have shown significant improvements in their performance.

BFI is an independent unit within the Department for Work and Pensions that inspects and reports directly to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the standard of benefits administration and counter-fraud activity in local authorities and the Department itself. During its inspections, BFI undertakes a thorough analysis of service standards and is careful to understand the reasons for under performance. Where a council has recently improved and has effective recovery plans in place, BFI will take this into account in the final inspection report.