Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues

The prime minister’s blustering attack on people committing benefit fraud yesterday highlighted the growing gap between work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly nuanced line on the issue and the rest of government’s determination to milk the potential of a ‘government cracks down on benefit cheats’ headline for all it’s worth.

The prime minister’s blustering attack on people committing benefit fraud yesterday highlighted the growing gap between work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly nuanced line on the issue and the rest of government’s determination to milk the potential of a ‘government cracks down on benefit cheats’ headline for all it’s worth.

After much concerted lobbying from Community Links, as part of our Need not Greed campaign, we were delighted to see DWP’s 21st Century Welfare paper include the paragraph:

“As a result [of the complexity and disincentives within the benefits system] working legitimately is not a rational choice for many poor people to make.

“Fraud is always wrong, but we must recognise that the benefits system is making matters worse by pushing valuable work, and the aspiration that this can engender, underground.

This recognition that the system itself rather than individuals is usually to blame was conspicuously missing from Cameron’s remarks. Instead, he has followed every previous government in picking on an easy target – vulnerable benefit claimants – to win headline approval.

As with many of these issues, playing to the opinion poll leads to a vicious cycle. A Freedom Of Information request from us revealed that last year the then-Labour government spent £4.7 million on an advertising campaign against benefit fraud, as part of their communications strategy to “reinforce public attitudes to fraud, making it socially unacceptable”.

Little wonder, then, that when you survey people about their attitude to benefit fraud they give it a high priority, and welcome aggressive measures to tackle it.

Meanwhile, the complexity in the benefit system ensures that twice as much is lost each year in error (£2.2bn) as is lost to fraud (£1bn). The proportions are similar within the tax credit system, and only adding all these together produces the £5.2bn that Cameron implied was making its way into the pockets of fraudulent claimants.

Tackling these real problems within the benefits system, through a fundamental reform that allows people to take steps back into work, will ultimately be far more successful at bringing down the welfare bill than pandering to prejudice against benefit claimants.

Even the right have taken pot shots at the the idea to recruit credit checking agencies in tackling fraud – the only actual policy idea announced by Mr Cameron yesterday – the Daily Mail lampooning it in cartoon form, with Big Brother Watch asking “Would you trust bounty hunters to enforce the law?” and Mary Riddell in the Telegraph explaining why bounty hunters “won’t solve the benefits crisis”.

12 Responses to “Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues”

  1. d

    RT @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  2. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  3. Community Links

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  4. comm links

    RT @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  5. Krupesh J. Hirani

    RT @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  6. ordinarymark

    "Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues | Left Foot Forward" ( http://bit.ly/aJoxFv )

  7. Will Horwitz

    RT: @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  8. mike

    lets start with Ashcroft
    he cheated on tax

  9. Laura Turney

    RT @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  10. Zero-credit Ltd

    RT @willhorwitz: RT: @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

  11. Andrew Whatmough

    RT @willhorwitz: RT: @leftfootfwd: Benefit fraud – PM plays to the polls whilst IDS considers the real issues: http://bit.ly/aJUx67

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