30/08/2011

Clampdown On Welfare Fraud Saves €345m

A clamp down on welfare fraud has saved millions of euro this year.

In the first seven months of 2011 €345m has been saved across the Department’s schemes through fraud and control measures.

This involved carrying out reviews of around 350,000 claims for various welfare payments, including illness benefit, child benefit and payments for carers.

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.

Meanwhile the department revealed that the number of anonymous reports made to it in the first seven months of this year rose significantly when compared to the same period last year. Just over 6,000 anonymous reports were made between January and July 2010 compared to over 8,500 in the same period this year.

The largest single category for reports received was in the 'working and claiming' section, with 3,829 reports, followed by 2,328 reports regarding cohabitation.

Serious fraud cases can be referred to the Gardai, the Chief State Solicitor's Office or the Director of Public Prosecution for criminal prosecution. Anyone found guilty of abusing the system can be fined or imprisoned.

In relation to legal proceedings for suspected welfare fraud up to the end of July of this year, 106 cases had fines imposed, 14 cases were given the Probation Act, 12 cases received community service, 12 cases received a suspended sentence and four were sent to prison.

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.

(LB)

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