DWP to hire ‘external agents’ in crackdown on benefit fraud that government’s own data shows doesn’t exist

‘If the government is concerned about fraud, it would be serious about the £15.2bn that multinational companies hide from the UK via tax havens.’

Mel Stride work and pensions Tory minister

As the government continues to crack down on so-called benefit fraud and reform the welfare system with stricter measures, newly released statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that there were almost no recorded cases of disability fraud in the financial year ending 2024.

Disability Living Allowance fraud was just 0.1 percent, rounded off to £0m. Personal independence payment (PIP) cheating was found to be 0 percent in the same period, the data showed.

PIP overpayments represented 0.4 percent, equating to around £90m lost in a year, marking a significant decrease from the previous year, when such overpayments stood 1.1 percent (£200m). The overpayments were said to be mainly due to errors made by the department when allocating award levels at the assessment stage.

In response to the DWP’s figures, Mikey Erhardt, campaigner at Disability Rights UK described PIP fraud as a ‘non-issue.’

“New data shows what we, as disabled people, have known for years – PIP fraud is a non-issue. PIP fraud is now the lowest on record – despite the government placing fraud front and centre of their latest public announcements,” said Erhardt.

“If the government is concerned about fraud, it would be serious about the £15.2bn that multinational companies hide from the UK via tax havens. Money which could fund public services that we all need and use. Instead, disabled people continue to be demonised,” he added.

Official figures also showed that benefit claimants were underpaid by £3.3bn last year, the highest level on record, despite a government drive to eliminate a ‘sick-note culture’ and crack down on benefit fraud.

In its ‘Fraud Plan’ published on May 13, the DWP announced it was hiring 2,500 ‘external agents’ to ‘help spot incorrectness in Universal Credit claims.’ Artificial Intelligence will also feature in the ‘crackdown’,’ with the DWP investing £70m into high-tech ‘machine learning’ in an attempt to identify patterns and anomalies being used in welfare applications that could suggest fraud. Additionally, DWP investigators will be given powers to conduct searches and make arrests, as well as retrieving information from the bank accounts of claimants.

Mel Stride, secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “We are scaling up the fight against those stealing from the taxpayer, building on our success in stopping £18bn going into the wrong hands in 2022-23.”

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