Universal Credit: Fraud

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to prevent fraudulent applications for Universal Credit, in particular for loans, other than issuing warnings about keeping personal details secret.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent bona fide applicants for Universal Credit suffer penalties, if fraudulent applications are made in respect of them.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Department takes the prevention of fraud extremely seriously. Part of its strategy includes ensuring Universal Credit transactions are secure, including tackling loopholes fraudsters may seek to exploit, which sadly can target some of our most vulnerable claimants.

It is, however, important to recognise that the vast majority of advances on Universal Credit are legitimate and ensure those in need of financial support get the help they need during their transition to Universal Credit.

All claims where fraud may have been committed are investigated. We are committed to the use of penalties such as prosecutions and tough financial penalties, where appropriate, to discourage this fraudulent behaviour. The Department considers all cases on their own merits and decisions are made on the strength of the evidence provided.

Additionally, we have a dedicated team of investigators to address this issue, and are working with Social Media sites to shut down posts which promote this fraud. The Department also operates a policy of explicit consent to help reduce the risk of fraud by ensuring that our claimants’ data is kept safe from unscrupulous organisations and individuals.

The Department is also raising awareness of this issue through a campaign being run on social media to remind people of the importance of safeguarding their identity. We have also been working to further improve knowledge and awareness of advances fraud amongst Jobcentre and Service Centre staff and guidance has been issued to ensure that staff are aware how to refer cases of suspected fraud to the Department’s Counter-fraud team.

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