More than 350,000 individual Social Welfare claims reviewed
New fraud control plan to be launched in September
Ms Joan Burton T.D., Minister for Social Protection today (29
th August 2011) outlined savings of almost €345m which has been achieved across the Department’s schemes through fraud and control measures.
In the first seven months of the year, Department officials reviewed some 350,000 individual claims for social welfare payments.
Reviews of One Parent Family payments accounted for over €101m in savings, followed by Pensions savings of over €84m and over €49m savings in Illness payments. Savings in Jobseekers claims were over €46m with over 126,376 claims reviewed while there was almost €19m savings in Child Benefit payments.
In addition to these claims, the Department carried out over 990 employer PRSI inspections to check their compliance.
Welcoming the figures, Minister Burton said that given the constraints on public expenditure at present, it is not acceptable that fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is tolerated. “Vigorously preventing and combating fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is a key priority that I have set for my Department” she added.
New Fraud Control Plan
Minister Burton plans to launch a new comprehensive control plan in September. The measures to be announced in the plan will ensure that an integrated approach is taken to the prevention, deterrence and detection of social welfare fraud across the social welfare system. The Minister said “The new plan will take a revised and renewed approach to tackling the challenges posed by social welfare fraud, while also recognising that it is important that access to the Department’s services is not unnecessarily difficult for genuine customers”.
Reporting possible fraud
The Department of Social Protection accepts reports of possible fraud offered by members of the public in relation to the Department’s schemes. Members of the public are asked to provide as much detail about the case they are reporting as possible and, they can do so anonymously.
In the first seven months of this year, 8,560 reports were received in the Central Control Section of the Department, compared with 6,046 in the same period last year.
There is a noted increase in reports of suspected abuse of the social welfare system, being reported by members of the public:
- In 2008, for the entire year 1,044 anonymous reports were received in Control Division;
- In 2009, for the entire year 6,429 anonymous reports were received;
- In 2010, for the entire year 12,648 anonymous reports were received.
Commenting on the figures, Minister Burton said that each and every report made by a member of the public is followed up by the appropriate area to assess if action is necessary.
Reports can be made as follows:
By Phone: (01) 704 3000, ask for Central Control Section or (071) 9672648 or Locall:
By Post: Central Control Division, DSP, Shannon Lodge, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.
Notes for Editors
Reviews carried out and savings achieved Jan to July 2011
||Savings achieved January - July 2011
||Number of Reviews
||January - July 2011
|SWA,PRSI, Frees & others
Breakdown of anonymous reports received in the first half of 2010 and 2011
|Type of report
||2011 (Jan – July)
|Working and Claiming
How we combat fraud - Factsheet
Working closely and collaboratively with other agencies to prevent fraud and abuse of the social welfare system is a key element of the Department’s control strategy. Various state agencies and bodies provide information to the Department which is used to data match and cross-check at initial claim stage and during reviews to determine on-going eligibility for entitlement.
Regular data matches occur with the Revenue Commissioners on commencement of employment and with the General Register’s Office on birth, marriages and deaths information. Other examples of on-going co-operation include data-matching and sharing of information with:
- The Irish Prison Service which provides prisoner data to the Department on a weekly basis;
- The Department of Education which provides student data;
- The Commission for Taxi Regulation which provide data on taxi/hackney licences; and
- The Private Residential Tenancy Board which provides information on registered landlords which is matched against the Department’s payments systems.
Data matching is a very effective method of identifying high risk claims for review and is an example of good cross-departmental co-operation. Existing legislation provides that relevant information can be matched in specific once-off targeted operations or through one-to-one data exchanges for a particular case. There is also good cross-border co-operation with the relevant agencies in Northern Ireland, the UK and in the wider EU regarding control investigations
Suspected fraud/legal proceedings
In cases where serious or protracted social welfare fraud has occurred, these cases are either referred to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office or Director of Public Prosecution for criminal prosecution. In other serious cases, such as multiple claiming or personation, the inspectors may refer the cases to the Gardai for investigation. A person who is found guilty of abusing the social welfare system may be fined or imprisoned.
In relation to legal proceedings for suspected welfare fraud up to the end of July 2011:
- 90 cases were forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor Office to initiate legal proceedings;
- 159 cases were finalised in court of which 128 related to Jobseekers claims;
- 106 cases had fines imposed, 4 cases received a prison sentence, 14 were given the Probation Act, 12 received community service and 12 cases received a suspended sentence; and
- 701 were on hands with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office/Local state solicitors at various stages of the prosecution process.
- A Circuit Court judge imposed a custodial sentence of twelve and a half years in the case of one social welfare fraud case involving multiple claims, which was jointly investigated with and referred to the Gardai for prosecution under the Criminal Justice (Fraud & Theft) Act.
Fraud Control measures
The Department of Social Protection has a wide range of fraud control measures which are enhanced on a continuous basis. These include:
Identity & Payment Checks: New claimants for Jobseeker’s payments are now exclusively paid through post offices. This requires them to attend the post office each week thus confirming their residency in the country. Photographic identification is also required when collecting payments at the post office.
Reviews of entitlement: these are systematically undertaken across all social welfare schemes having regard to the level of fraud risk associated with these schemes.
Direct Mailshots: The Department uses direct mailshots to validate with customers that the conditions for receipt of benefits, allowances and child related payments are met.
Medical Eligibility Assessments: In the case of persons receiving illness and disability payments, recipients are reviewed on a systematic basis through medical assessments and examinations to ensure that the medical eligibility entitlement is still fulfilled.
Non Residency: Residency checks on social welfare claims are undertaken nationwide by Departmental Inspectors in order to determine whether their residency status in the State is fulfilled.
Anonymous reports of possible fraud: Reports of suspected fraudulent social welfare claims can be made by calling 1890927999 and asking for Central Control Section. Alternatively, there is an on-line facility for members of the public to report their suspicions of social welfare fraud on www.welfare.ie.
Data Matching: The Department has, in the last number of years, been engaged in data sharing with other Government Departments and public bodies for control purposes. Data matching is viewed as a very efficient and effective mechanism to target control–related activity.
Special Investigation Unit
The function of the Department’s Special Investigation Unit is to investigate and report on fraud and abuse in the various Social Welfare assistance and insurance schemes. The work also includes employer inspections on behalf of the Department and in conjunction with the tax inspectorate to ensure compliance in relation to the Social Insurance fund. In addition to investigating credible reports of social welfare fraud and abuse, the Unit’s key areas of activity for 2011 will incorporate:
A key priority will be the active policing of the hidden economy sector where there is a prevalence of social welfare and abuse. Investigations will where appropriate be undertaken through JIU operations with Revenue. The sectors where SIU activity will be undertaken include: markets/casual trading, couriers, clothes recycling, car valeting, security sector, haulage, construction sector - once-off builds, restaurants and fast food sector including delivery services, newspaper distribution, satellite and TV installers.
In conjunction with the enforcement officers of the Taxi Regulator, a series of joint operations have been agreed for 2011.
Multiple claiming/Personation projects
Cases and cohorts of claimants where the characteristics of multiple claiming are identified will be fully investigated. In instances where multiple claiming is detected, these cases where appropriate will be referred to the Gardaí for criminal proceedings under the Criminal Justice (Fraud & Theft) Act.
Multi Agency Vehicle Checkpoints
A series of MAVCs will be undertaken in 2011 and a particular emphasis placed on those in cross border areas.
Non Residency Non Irish Nationals
Projects in relation to non-residency amongst cohorts of non Irish nationals are planned. In addition, the issue of cross jurisdictional claiming of benefits will feature in these projects.
Lifestyle and Assets Review
The basis of these reviews is directed towards individuals whose lifestyle and display of wealth or assets are not commensurate with Social Welfare dependency.