Arrested for Benefit Fraud?
Benefit Fraud: Department of Works and Pensions Enquiry
We are often contacted by Client's who have been contacted by the DWP or Local authority about their benefit/housing benefit claims.
This can be a very troubling time for these Client's. The main basis of these enquiries relates to a non-declaration of a change in circumstances:
-failure to disclose assets (savings or property)-it is not a defence to say the money or asset belongs to someone else
-not declaring a part-time/full time work
-not declaring new partner who is contributing to household income
-claiming you pay more rent than you actually do
-asking an employer to declare you earn less than you are paid
We can attend with you for the appointment. If you are still on a qualifying benefit, there is legal aid under the Advice and Assistance scheme to cover the attendance which will be a taped interview.
If you don't qualify for legal aid, we can quote you a fixed fee.
Like an interview at the police station, this will be tape recorded. Before the interview the investigator has to disclose the nature of the allegation. From experience, the DWP will have obtained all the relevant evidence before calling for the interview. They will have copies of all the declarations you have signed confirming there had been no change in circumstances. They will then produce the evidence they have to prove what they believe to be a breach.
Prosecution may typically occur using the Social Security Administration Act 1992 or Theft Act 1978. New offences have recently been introduced and are becoming more common in relation to the Fraud Act 2006.
Any suspicion of fraud can be sent to the DWP as well as one's local council. The DWP as well as many of the UK's councils have dedicated websites where information can be submitted to be investigated.
It is not only the DWP that investigate benefit fraud but also all UK councils investigate Housing and Council Tax Benefit Fraud which is often linked to most DWP frauds. Since the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2007, councils can now independently investigate a number of Social Security benefits.
All allegations are risk assessed based on the level of information and the detail contained in the allegation and are also assessed using the National Intelligence Model. The more information that is supplied then the greater the chance of the case being accepted for investigation and also the greater the chance of the “fraudster being caught”.
When someone is caught for benefit fraud there are three 'sanctions' that the DWP or the Council can apply.
These are 'simple' cautions, administrative penalties, and prosecution.
The main criteria for the offering of a caution is that the person has to have admitted that they have committed an offence.
Other than this criteria, there is no statutory framework regulating which sanction is used in disposal of a case. This is a matter of policy for the relevant authority. The Department for Work and Pensions has a national policy, each Local Authority will have its own policy which will set different criteria and financial guidelines.
The Administrative Penalty is effectively a fine and is set at 30% of the total amount overpaid to them. This figure is set in Section 115 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, there is no negotiation on this. The suspect does not have to admit their guilt to be offered an Administrative Penalty, however it should only be offered by the Department for Work and Pensions, or the Local Authority if they believe there is sufficient evidence for court proceedings to be considered if the offer is refused.
A Prosecution is brought when the value of the overpaid benefit is so great, or the period of the fraud is lengthy, or the person may have been in a position of trust or the fraud was very blatant. Any prosecution brought by the Department for Work and Pensions, or a Local Authority should have been subject to the Public Interest Test as set out in the Code of Practice for Crown Prosecutors.
Defendants convicted of a criminal offence can often be punished with a prison sentence.