€669 million saved through control measures in 2012

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Over 1 million individual social welfare claims reviewed
Minister sets target of €710m in control savings for 2013

The Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., has today (March 8th, 2013) published details of how savings of €669 million were achieved in 2012 through a broad range of control measures across Department of Social Protection schemes. The savings exceeded the target originally set for the year of €645 million.

In total, more than 1 million reviews of individual social welfare claims were carried out, again exceeding target, which had been set at 985,000.

As a result of the Department's consistently strong performance in this area, Minister Burton has now set a target for €710 million in control savings to be achieved this year.

The Minister said: "These figures demonstrate once again my Department's commitment to stamping out welfare fraud and abuse. I have always championed the welfare system as a safety net for those who need it most, and that safety net is more important than ever in the current economic climate. However, it's precisely because the State's limited resources should go to those most in need that we need to prevent fraud and abuse in the system.

"The Programme for Government commits to maintaining core welfare rates while taking a zero-tolerance approach towards welfare fraud. These are my twin aims to ensure we protect the vulnerable and pursue those who try to defraud the system."

The savings refer to money that would have been paid out by the Department but for the control measures implemented. Control measures include all activities that the Department undertakes to ensure that people are receiving the correct amount of their entitlement. They are also aimed at preventing and detecting social welfare fraud. They range from mail shots whereby social welfare recipients confirm that eligibility conditions continue to be met, direct reviews of entitlement by inspectors and medical re-certification or examination to fraud and abuse investigations by the Department's Special Investigation Unit.

The figures are contained in the 2012 Progress Report on the Department's Fraud Initiative 2011-2013, published today by Minister Burton. The key objective of the Fraud Initiative is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time.

"This year, the Department's total budget amounts to almost €20.3 billion and the public must have confidence that this money is being spent appropriately," Minister Burton said. "Social welfare fraud undermines confidence in the entire system and is unfair to genuine claimants and the taxpayers who fund the system in the knowledge that it is there for them when they need it."

The Progress Report sets out the progress made in 2012 across 10 key areas. Commenting on the report, the Minister pointed to the important work the Department is doing to tackle difficult issues such as "welfare tourism" and the recovery of overpayments.

Since June 2012, social welfare inspectors have had powers to question people at ports and airports whom they believe may be entering the country to claim social welfare payments fraudulently.

With regard to the recovery of overpayments, the Minister pointed out that the Department can now recover up to 15% of a person's core personal welfare payment in cases of overpayment whereas previously it had been as little as €2 a week. "This is a very important development and means the Department can take the necessary steps to recover monies that have been overpaid in a timely manner," the Minister said.

The Progress Report gives a number of examples of projects undertaken in 2012 to combat fraud and abuse.

In addition to the Progress Report, Minister Burton has also published two other reports today:

Child Benefit:

The Department undertakes fraud and error surveys to establish baseline fraud and error levels for social welfare schemes. These surveys help to identify the level of risk associated with particular schemes so that control measures can be enhanced to minimise the level of future risk.

The Child Benefit survey found that the net cost of fraud and error in the claims surveyed amounted to 0.5% of expenditure. Of this, all 0.5% related to suspected fraud and 0% to error. "I very much welcome the findings from the survey which highlights the fact that Child Benefit is a very well controlled and low-risk scheme," Minister Burton said.

Non-Compliance Analytics Project:

In 2012, the Department worked with Accenture and SAS to explore the potential of predictive risk analytics. Predictive analytics models allow for all data held by an organisation, such as the Department, to be analysed to indicate and predict where higher incidences of risks of fraud and error may occur amongst certain cohorts of customers.

Using a series of risk indicators, 1,000 jobseeker cases were identified, which were then investigated to determine whether they were in fact non-compliant. The outcomes were then benchmarked against the Department's existing investigations and detection rates. The key findings of the pilot were that:

  • Using the jobseeker predictive model, the investigations 'hit rate' increased from the Department's baseline figure of 4.5% to 6.3% - an uplift of 1.8 percentage points, which is significant in expenditure terms
  • Based on the findings from the pilot, using Advanced Analytics to drive jobseeker investigations could deliver a further €50 million approximately in jobseeker welfare savings over three years

The Department will be considering the future use of risk analytics over the coming months.


Notes for Editors:

Control savings 2012

An amount of €669m in control savings was achieved in 2012. The bulk of this came from the following schemes - One Parent Family Payment (€172m), Pensions (€171m), Jobseekers (€91m), Illness (€84m) and Child Benefit (€83m). See breakdown of the figures in table 1 below.

2013 control targets

The savings target for 2013 is €710 million which is an increase of €40m on the savings achieved in 2012. Targets for the main schemes are as follows - One Parent Family Payments (€165m), Pensions (€157m), Illness (€122m), Jobseekers (€119m) and Child Benefit (€80m).

Control savings are an estimate of the value of the various control activities across the schemes in payment. Control savings refer to future expenditure that would have been incurred but for this control work. Without this control work the social welfare expenditure would over time increase by this amount. Control savings are used as a performance indicator for year-on-year activities. Control savings do not include any cases of departmental or clerical error or cases where the customer voluntarily told the Department that their means or circumstances had changed, which resulted in a change to their rate of payment.

Reporting fraud and abuse

Citizens who wish to report suspected incidences of welfare fraud can do so both online and to dedicated phone lines as follows:

  • By email: www.welfare.ie
  • By phone: (01) 6732123 or (071) 9672648 or Locall: 1890 927999.
  • By Post: Central Control Division, Department of Social Protection, Shannon Lodge, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and where relevant, are referred for follow-up action. A payment is not suspended or stopped solely on the basis of an anonymous report. The anonymous report, however, may be a "trigger" for the instigation of a review of a customer's entitlement. Just over 28,000 reports were received in 2012, compared to approximately 16,900 in 2011.

Of the 2012 cases, approximately 18,300 cases were sent to the relevant scheme area for examination while in the case of the remaining 9,720, it was not possible to issue a report due to lack of information, no claim being in payment or the fact that the information reported would not impact on entitlement.

Reports relating to working and claiming social welfare (11,900) and co-habitation (6,955) accounted for approximately 70% of anonymous reports received in 2012. See breakdown in table 2 below.

While there is often a perception of fraud, when a case is examined, the individual may be doing something that is allowed under the rules for the particular payment which they are receiving. For example, a person may be working and receiving a One Parent Family payment and provided their earnings are within the scheme limits and the Department is aware of the situation, then receipt of the payment is legitimate.

Control provisions included in recent Social Welfare Legislation

The Social Welfare & Pension Act 2012 included three specific provisions to enhance and support fraud and control measures.

Section 14 gave a new power of enquiry to landlords by Social Welfare Inspectors and Designated Persons (former Community Welfare Officers) where a Rent Supplement is being paid to ensure that it is being correctly paid. The measure is designed to ensure an enhanced level of control of the Rent Supplement scheme.

Section 15 allowed for additional identity and authentication measures to be introduced for the purposes of making a claim for a social welfare payment or an application for a PPSN or a Public Services Card. It also allows for photographs and signatures to be captured and retained in electronic form.

In Section 17, provision was made to allow for Social Welfare Inspectors to exercise certain functions at ports and airports where they suspect that individuals are entering the jurisdiction for the purposes of continuing to claim social welfare payments to which they are not entitled.

In addition, Section 13 of the 2012 Act 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).

Special Investigation Unit

The exclusive function of the Department's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) which comprises 91 officers is to investigate and report on fraud and abuse of social welfare schemes. The Unit undertakes a series of targeted national projects aimed at the prevention and detection of social welfare fraud in high risk sectors, schemes and client cohorts. SIU Officers work closely and collaboratively with other compliance and fraud investigation agencies to ensure that social welfare abuse is comprehensively deterred and detected (e.g. Revenue, National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), and the National Transport Authority).

Types of Welfare Fraud

The principal ways in which social welfare payments are fraudulently claimed are:

  • Concurrent Working & Claiming: Where a person claims a payment, such as Jobseeker's Benefit/Allowance or an Illness payment, but takes up employment and does not notify the Department.
  • Non-disclosure of means: Where a person claims a means tested payment, for example Jobseeker's Allowance, but does not fully disclose the means or sources of income to the Department.
  • Multiple claiming or personation: Where a person makes a claim for more than one social welfare payment or by assuming and falsely using the identity and PPS number of another person.
  • Life Events: Where a person continues to claim a payment to which he/she is no longer entitled such as a lone parent who marries, enters into a civil partnership or is cohabiting, or someone who continues to claim Carer's Allowance where caring duties have ceased.
  • Cohabitation: Persons may be living as a ‘family unit' and fail to notify this to the Department in order to qualify for higher rates of payments, or payments to which they may not be entitled.
  • Social Insurance and Employer Non Compliance: Where employers fail to maintain appropriate employment/wage records and where non-compliance or non-remittance of Pay Related Social Insurance occurs.
  • Non-residency in the State: Where a person claims a social welfare payment which requires residency, and he/she is no longer resident in Ireland.

Control measures used by the Department

Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. Means-tested payments are reviewed at certain intervals or when there are indications that changes in circumstances have not been reported to the Department. Those in receipt of illness payments are called for a medical examination by the Department's medical assessors.

Customers in receipt of unemployment payments are checked on a regular basis to verify continued compliance with such requirements as being available for and genuinely seeking employment.

Current measures to control fraud and abuse include desk reviews of claim papers, home visits, the issue of mail-shots to selected customers, database checking and data matching with other organisations and medical reviews in the case of illness payments.

Tables follow.

Copies of the three reports referred to in the Press Release are available at the Department's website www.welfare.ie.

Table 1 - Control savings 2012

The control savings target for 2012 was €645 million.

€669m control savings were recorded as achieved at the end of 2012:

Scheme Savings 2012 Reviews 2012
% Target Achieved %
Pensions (inc HHB)
OFP (inc WOPS)
Child Benefit

Table 2 - Anonymous Reports - 2011 & 2012

The breakdown of anonymous reports in 2011 and 2012 is as follows:

Type of report Jan-Dec 2011 Type of report Jan-Dec 2012
Working and Claiming
Working and Claiming
Outside Ireland
Outside Ireland
Employer issue
Employer issue
Last modified:08/03/2013