DWP says benefit overpayments down £100m with ‘new IT’ promising more

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said that the error rate for benefit overpayments has dropped by £100 million.

The overall fraud and error rate in the benefits system is now 2.1 percent, equivalent to £3.4 billion. That comprises £2.2 billion in overpayments due to error and £1.2 billion caused by benefit fraud in 2013/14.

A spokesperson told ComputerworldUK that the decrease was partly driven by a new ‘case cleansing’ regime for major benefits in its current systems and a fraud and error service launched earlier this year.

The service acts as a single-joined up organisation to investigate benefit fraud across the DWP, local authorities and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

The DWP has also strengthened its focus on compliance and accuracy and beefed up feedback mechanisms on individual staff performance, the spokesperson said.

The department claimed that the new measures helped it to recover almost £1 billion overpaid due to benefit fraud or error in 2013/14, which it said was up 30 percent over the last three years.

Work and pensions minister Mark Harper (pictured) said: “Too much money has been needlessly wasted in the past on fraud and error, so it’s good news that we’ve brought down claim errors to a record low. Now thanks to our new IT advances, we will be able to track both fraud and error in record time.”

The spokesperson added that the department expects benefit overpayment levels to fall “a lot further” going forward thanks to the introduction of Real Time Information (RTI).

However she said the DWP is yet to release its official estimates of the expected decrease.

RTI will allow benefit claims to be cross-checked against earnings and pension income data from HMRC instantly instead of annually.

The data matching process has been used for claims of jobseekers allowance, employment and support allowance and pension credit since August, and started to be used for housing benefit claims last month, the DWP said.

The head of the new fraud and error service, Richard West, described RTI as “a quick and efficient way to ensure the right benefits are being paid to the correct people and to identify promptly if this is not the case before large overpayments occur”.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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