Department says that data from Real Time Information is laying the ground for further reductions in benefits overpayments
Fraud and error in benefits payments has falling to its lowest recorded level, with the Introduction of Real Time Information (RTI) making a significant contribution to the achievement, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
In its latest round of figures on benefit overpayments, the DWP says the total for 2014-15 was £3.0 billion, down by £350 million on the previous year. It amounted to 1.8% of the total, the lowest recorded rate since the first records in 2005-06, but still above the 1.7% target set for last year set in 2010-11. Fraud accounted for £1.3 billion and claimant error for £1.1 billion.
The department and local authorities also achieved a record in recovering payments of £930 million last year, an increase of 9% on the previous year on a like for like basis.
Its performance in reducing overpayments has gradually improved with the ability to use data from various sources in checking the eligibility of claimants, and it said the introduction in August 2014 of RTI is contributing to the reductions in fraud and error and will lead to cuts.
RTI provides up-to-date information from HM Revenue & Customs on individuals’ earnings based on PAYE, making it possible for the DWP to cross-check against benefit claims.
Universal Credit promise
The DWP also predicted that the widespread introduction of Universal Credit next year will help to cut overpayments further.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, said: “Our vital reforms are fixing the welfare system and today’s figures show fraud and error in the benefits system has fallen to a record low. We are also continuing to recover more money than ever before, and Universal Credit will further reduce fraud and error.”
The DWP’s figures show that housing benefit accounted for the largest share of overpayments at £1.29 billion, followed by employment and support allowance at £370 million, pension credit at £310 million and jobseeker’s allowance at £160 million.
Underpayments of benefits are at 0.9% of the total, a little higher than rates earlier in the decade but close to the average of the past 10 years.
Image: DWP Adelphi building, by Steph Gray from London, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons