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National Fraud Initiative produces £198 million savings



Annual report indicates gains in pensions, welfare benefits and council tax payments from data matching initiative

Data matching under the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) has saved government bodies £198 million in preventing fraud over the past two years, according to figures from the Cabinet Office.

It has made the claim in its newly published annual report on the NFI, which pinpoints the highest value categories identified as pension fraud and overpayments (£85 million), followed by welfare benefit fraud and overpayments (£39 million), and council tax single person discount payments (£37 million).

The NFI works by cross-referencing an extensive range of data from almost 1,300 organisations from across the UK. This can highlight discrepancies, for instance identifying that a person is listed as working while also receiving benefits and not declaring any income.

The relevant organisation can then investigate and amend or stop benefit payments.

Recoveries and dismissals

Non-financial benefits have also been recorded. The report says that between 2014-16 the NFI enabled 54 properties to be recovered for social housing; 52 employees were dismissed or asked to resign because they had no right to work in the UK; and 23,063 blue badges for disabled people’s parking were cancelled.

It says most public bodies have arrangements for managing participation in the NFI, and need to work with its team to understand how it can reduce fraud and error overpayments.

Developments over the past year have included an increase in data matching functions, an effort to tackle personal budget fraud for the first time, and the addition of the AppCheck tool for application checking in real time.

Stepping up the use of the latter will be among the areas of focus for the next 18 months, along with identifying emerging risks, providing links to third party datasets, developing new products and extending the legislative powers of the NFI. In addition, a strategy for 2016-20 is being formulated.

Call for take-up

Cabinet Office Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Many public sector organisations have limited capacity to investigate fraud leaving them vulnerable to risks of overpayments and fraudulent claims. I would like to see councils and other public sector organisations take full advantage of the National Fraud Initiative.

“By working together and maximising the benefits of the exercise we could save the taxpayer millions more over the coming years. We must identify fraudulent individuals, safeguard taxpayers’ money and protect vital public services.”

Image from iStock

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