Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Monday, 28 November 2011

Government saves 100m in benefit fraud crackdown

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has told the Commons the government has saved more than £100m by tackling benefit fraud.

He also confirmed that nearly 10,000 people were prosecuted for benefit fraud in 2010 - more than 1,000 up on the previous year.

The minister said 86% of cases had resulted in successful convictions, adding: "In all cases, benefit fraudsters are required to pay back the money that they have stolen."

He was speaking during his department's question time in the Commons on 28 November 2011, after a question by Conservative MP Nadim Zahawi on what steps he was taking to tackle benefit fraud in areas where its prevalence was high.

Mr Duncan Smith said he had inherited £3.1bn of fraud and error in the benefits system from the previous Labour government, and that progress in combating benefit fraud had "plateaued" since 2005.

But, he added: "A joint strategy with the HMRC started in October 2010 which was about regional taskforces, which were mobile to look at different areas, were targeting claimants in high fraud areas and visits with phone calls and letters.

"One pilot was completed in Birmingham, two more in Cardiff and Croydon, and evaluation of a fourth is being completed. But so far, since October, just from case cleansing alone we have saved over £100m."

Labour's Kevin Brennan said the minister was "absolutely right" to combat benefit fraud but asked whether he was being "equally assiduous" in tackling a "lack of benefit take up" from people who should be entitled to claim it?

Mr Duncan-Smith said the new universal credit being introduced by his department would "really help change this" and that there would be far fewer cases where people did not get what they were entitled to, citing childcare as a specific example.

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