The Department are taking a clear and strategic approach in preventing and detecting social welfare fraud and error. Some of the key measures undertaken include:
- The strengthening of measures and the introduction of new powers under the Social Welfare Acts to prevent and detect social welfare fraud and error.
- The rollout of the Public Services Card to improve the authentification of identity and prevent fraud entering the system.
- More efficient and effective recovery of overpayments arising through fraud or error and increasing the value of money recovered.
- The application of new technologies and, in particular, predictive analytics to predict incidents of fraudulent behaviour or potential error.
- Increasing the Department’s capacity to detect fraud through the secondment of Gardai to the Department’s Special Investigation Unit.
- A concerted effort to police shadow economy activity and sectors where social welfare fraud is prevalent.
In successive SW Acts provisions to assist the investigation, the prevention and detection of social welfare fraud have been introduced to strengthen the Department’s capacity to deal with the issue.
In the Social Welfare & Pensions Act 2011 three specific provisions were introduced.
- The extension of the powers for Social Welfare Inspectors to investigate employers and in respect of Multi Agency Vehicle Checkpoints (Section 13).
- Public Service Cards and provision for their cancellation where illegally used (Section 15).
- Restricting the offsetting of fraud overpayments against any period of entitlement (Sections 17&18).
In the Social Welfare & Pensions Act 2012 three specific provisions were made to enhance and support fraud and control measures.
- Specific powers of enquiry for Social welfare inspectors at Ports and Airports (Section17)
- Specific powers of enquiry for Social Welfare inspectors and former community welfare officers to landlords where a Rent Supplement is payable (Section14).
- The introduction of additional identity and authentication measures for the purposes of making a claim for social welfare payments (Section 15).
The Social Welfare Act 2012 amended the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005.
- This amendment allows for a deduction of an amount up to 15% of the weekly personal rate payable to a customer for the purposes of the recovery of an overpayment (in both fraud and non-fraud cases) without the customer’s consent (Section 13).
The Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013:
- Introduced powers for the recovery of overpayments by way of notice of attachments in the case of financial institutions and employers (Section15).
- Additional identity and authentication measures for existing claimants of social welfare payments were also introduced (Section 11).
The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2014
- Provided for the Secondment of members of An Garda Siochana as Social Welfare Inspectors (section15)
- Introduced recovery of sums due by deduction from certain payments (section 16)
- Introduced powers for the recovery of overpayments by way of notice of attachment from State Agencies (section 17).
In addition to control measures, the Department seeks to activate customers off social welfare dependency by way of a range of measures and options.
For example, the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance is designed to encourage the long-term unemployed on a social welfare payment to develop a business while allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their qualifying social welfare payment, plus they may retain secondary benefits, over two years. The Back to Education Allowance is a scheme which encourages and facilitates people on certain social welfare payments to improve their skills and qualifications and, therefore, their prospects of returning to the active work force.
JobsPlus is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who offer employment opportunities to the long term unemployed. This Incentive replaces the Revenue Job Assist and Employer Job (PRSI) Exemption Scheme from 1st July 2013. Regular cash payments can be made to qualifying employers to offset wage costs where they engage eligible jobseekers from the live register. The incentive provides two levels of payment: a payment of €7,500 over two years to the employer for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months and €10,000 over two years to the employer for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 24 months.
Activation is the selection and referral of a person on a jobseeker payment to a compulsory engagement and case management process to support them back into employment. The purpose of Activation is to assist and support the Jobseekers in their efforts to obtain employment. Clients are expected to use the supports offered during the activation process which might include education or training, employment support schemes to help them back into the workplace, internships and other supports, which are considered appropriate to the individual person’s circumstances and are agreed with the client. Jobseekers must fully engage with this process and sanctions can be imposed for non-engagement in the form of reduced payments where jobseekers fail, without good cause, to comply with the activation process. Penalty rates, which are provided for under Social Welfare legislation to ensure that the Department can achieve compliance with Government Activation Policy as stated in Pathways to Work, only apply to the activation process. Jobseekers who refuse to engage with services, refuse an appropriate offer of training or education, or do not attend meetings, can have their payment reduced by up to €44 a week (introduced in April 2011). However the normal rate of payment may be reinstated where the Jobseeker engages with the activation process, as requested. Strengthened sanctions were introduced in July 2013 to provide for a disqualification from payment for a period of up to 9 weeks, in circumstances where a jobseeker who has had a penalty rate imposed for 21 days, continues to fail to engage. Continued failure to engage in the activation phase without good cause can give rise to full disqualification on the basis that the jobseeker is not genuinely seeking work, resulting in a cessation of payment. It is important to note that Secondary Payments, such as Rent Allowance, are not affected by this sanction.
To address the prevention and detection of social welfare fraud the following actions will be undertaken:
- Interagency Co-operation: In conjunction with other agencies and, in particular, with Revenue, the Department tackles shadow economy working by a combination of joint intelligence collation, assurance checks and outdoor operations, including inspections and direct investigations.
- High Level DSP/Revenue Co-operation: The Department liaises bilaterally with Revenue through a High Level Group consisting of senior officials from both organisations. This mechanism ensures ongoing collaboration and interaction between the organisations, including oversight of activities designed to combat the black economy.
- Working with Business and Unions: The Department participates on the Hidden Economy Monitoring Group with Revenue, employer and union representative bodies. This Group provides a formal structure to monitor developments, share experiences and make proposals for combating the hidden economy. In addition, the Department engages and meets with business and industry representatives. Increasingly, the Department is finding that bodies and individuals are prepared to share insights and specific information with us with regard to shadow economy activity.
- Direct Investigations and Interventions: Where intelligence or reliable reports are received about specific sectors or persons engaged in concurrent working and claiming or under declaration of income, then reviews of eligibility are immediately undertaken. Case interventions are undertaken based on assessments of compliance risks and other relevant information.
- Data Matching: The Department has extensive legal powers to support the sharing of data for the purpose of controlling the entitlement and payment of benefits. Data is exchanged on an ongoing basis with agencies and, in particular, with Revenue to support its activities in combating shadow economy activity.
- Ongoing Review of entitlement: the Department will continue to review entitlements across all social welfare schemes with a view t enhancing its control policies and ensuring that people receive their appropriate payment.
- Fraud and Error Surveys: Fraud and error surveys are an integral part of the Department's Control Strategy. Fraud and error surveys provide the Department with an indicator of th
estimated risk within specific schemes surveyed to enable the Department to enhance procedures
and processes to build control across the relevant schemes. The Department will establish the risk
and exposure of fraud and error within its schemes by conducting fraud and error surveys at
- Direct Mailshots: The Department will supplement reviews of entitlement by the frequent use of direct mailshots to validate with customers that the conditions for receipt of benefits, allowances and child related payments are met. In addition they will also serve to heighten fraud awareness. In instances where the customer fails to respond, payments will be suspended or
forwarded for investigation.
- Reporting of Social Welfare Fraud: Good citizen reports of suspected fraudulent social welfare claims can be made by
- By phone: (01) 6732123 / (071) 9672648 or Locall: 1890 927999.
- By Post: Central Control Division, DSP, Shannon Lodge, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.
Members of the public are asked to provide as much detail about the case they are reporting as possible
and with these facilities they can do so totally anonymously.
The approach taken by the Department is frequently reviewed and is regularly adjusted to concentrate on the areas of greatest risk, based on its operational experience and credible information received from industry and business sectors.