The DWP is to get the power to arrest claimants, search premises and seize evidence as well as being able to fine claimants where they do not have enough evidence to bring a criminal case for fraud, the government has announced.

The new measures, many of which will not be possible to introduce without an Act of Parliament, are aimed primarily at cutting fraud in Universal credit (UC).

In total, the DWP are to spend £200 million a year on the new initiative, which will see 1,400 more staff in frontline counter-fraud teams plus a new 2,000 strong team solely for checking universal credit claims.

The sweeping new powers will mean that designated DWP staff will be able to arrest claimants, search premises and seize any evidence they find without needing to use the police. The DWP say this will put them on a par with HMRC and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

There will also be new powers for the DWP to force other organisations, especially banks, to provide data about claimants on a much wider scale than is currently legally allowed.

At the moment the DWP can only require organisations to give them information about named individuals where there is already a suspicion of fraud.  The DWP want much broader powers to access information.

They say that a “small test” has been run with a bank to assess the potential of using a feed of banking data to identify possible fraud and error, “with very encouraging results”.

The DWP will be able to impose civil penalties on claimants based on a percentage of any overpayment, where the DWP does not have enough evidence to prosecute. This will be in addition to having to repay the whole amount of the benefit the DWP consider to have been fraudulently obtained.

The DWP already have the power to impose civil penalties, but they have to have evidence sufficient to meet the standard for criminal prosecution before they can do so.  Under the new proposals, a lower level of evidence would be needed in order for the department to impose a penalty.

The DWP will also be able to impose penalties on organisations which the it considers are “promoting benefit fraud schemes online, creators and sellers of fraud toolkits on social media or someone supplying fake ID.”

More details about the anti-fraud plans are available on the .gov.uk website.

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    whippetgood · 16 days ago
    I’m interested in the “feed of banking data” in instances where a person’s benefits are paid into a joint account. Surely the right to a private life (Article 8) of the other account holder would be violated if data concerning a joint account is made available to the DWP when there is no suspicion of fraud. Obviously with means tested UC it’s likely that a claimant’s partner’s financial info is already known to the DWP, but non means tested benefits aren’t excluded from this proposal.
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    FayeM · 22 days ago
    I agree with so many of the comments below. As so many of us know from experience the DWP as a whole is very far from being the fair, efficient, humane organisation, fully funded and well trained,  that it needs to be just to handle the powers and duties it already has (with a few individuals excepted). Being given the legal rights to use even more coercive and frightening methods of investigation and punishment (without the need for proof), alongside their woeful record in providing swift support for often desperate people, is bound to result in many further miscarriages of justice. (Let's not forget what happened to all those sub postmistresses and masters when the Post Office mis-used their powers.) Surely there needs to be a strong backlash against this proposal from MPs and organisations as well as individuals. Rooting out the fraudsters needs to be done but it is likely to be ordinary, needy people who suffer and not the organised, sophisticated business people and crime gangs, as comments below suggest.  
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    Kay · 23 days ago
    Yet again the disabled community are labelled guilty before innocent. It's a joke they can afford the thousands of new front line staff but yer the £20 a week uplift was scrapped. Also the known fraud during lock down 3 to 4 billion is just wiped off and forgotten about. Absolutely disgusting. Let's see how long it takes for the DWP to get it wrong and some poor innocent person takes their life in fear of prison. The government don't have a clue.......totally disillusioned....and totally fed up. All eyes on us.....AGAIN....The easy soft target.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Julie kohut · 26 days ago
    Hi everyone I've got my Pip's rewards renewal as anyone got any suggestions please?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anna · 26 days ago
    I'm all in favour of prosecuting those who perpetrate benefit fraud, but the actual methods of doing it are probably identity theft. That coupled with the DWP track record of making mistakes that cost people their lives, make this piece of news extremely worrying. There is precious little recourse to hold them to account at the moment.

    How can they fine people when there is insufficient evidence to take them to court? Whatever happened to our access to justice and the idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty? This smacks of disability discrimination at its worst to me. 

    I can't help wondering if the extra money spend on counter fraud measures, which is only a very small percentage of overall claims, would be better spent on catching up on the backlogs in renewals that are causing us legitimate (vast majority) claimants such additional stresses. Maybe they should get their house in order before taking on more strong arm tactics to make our lives even harder.


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    Hetty. · 27 days ago
    Imagine how many people could be supported into work, or just helped to get by if they are unable to work, (that's if the English government were at all interested in helping people or in decent job creation, which they are not) with the £millions being spent on hounding people who are going to be labelled fraudsters, purely for needing financial support, just to access the very basic needs to survive, (access to basic needs, food, shelter, heating, are a human right, though the EngGov are about to scrap the HRA as well, scarily).

    To award DWP staff powers of arrest, with no recourse to the actual laws of the land, (depending on which country you live in, I live in Scotland where Scots Law is independent and different in many ways to English law. For eg, you can't be imprisoned for debt) is absolutely abhorrent in a democracy. I would think this could be challenged, it needs to be scrutinised if this passes in the English parliament, because it smacks of a vigilante or witch hunt style of action against what is most likely to be perfectly innocent people who are otherwise unable to access basic funds to live.

    Universal Credit, is it not almost impossible to get that measly financial help without ridicule, humiliation and the denial of a persons basic rights being honoured, and to be to be treated in a humane manner.

    I am fearful that this will result in innocent people being castigated with no recourse to any laws which are meant to deliver a just and fair system to all citizens no matter their financial status.

    How this new assault on peoples' rights to be treated with dignity, respect and fairness, is to be imposed is open to question. What criteria will be used, and by what measure will those imposing this (I would think unlawful) draconian treatment on the poorest and most desperate people in our society, be held to account?

    People need to stand up for themselves and if they can't, get together and as with sites like this, support, question and ensure that people do not end up victims of a nasty, backward, witch hunt type of trial in a kangaroo court (?). I am sure organisations like CAB will be very busy if this atrocious inhumane and unlawful bill/act of the English parliament is passed. ( I call it the English parliament because Scotland does not get to choose the government in power at WM at any one time).

    Lastly, as has been pointed out, perhaps the EngGov should look into their own backyard for utterly so much disgraceful criminal and fraudulent (but successful) claims made to the public purse, as well as tax evasion which as we all know is happening on a vast scale in the UK.

    Everyone pays tax, even if not 'working', via VAT. Everyone pays into the public purse and should be able to access support when life takes a downturn for whatever reason that may be. Not many people want to be dependent and unable to contribute to society for the good, in some way or another, well, I can think of a few but they are not poor!


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    Jo Woolnough · 27 days ago
    This is awful news they already push people into poverty & beyond & now they will have the right to arrest people too. How do we know it will only be fraudulent cases as they have already shown they use underhand practices to push people out of their benefits this will be a license to finish us off - it’s disgusting!!!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Paul · 27 days ago
    Need advice
    my wife is on low income as a career
    we live totaly on her wage
    my self just been finished from employment due to lower back problems and been accepted for pip
    iv heard rumours if my wife is earning im awarded reduced pip  any advice please   
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Joy · 1 days ago
      @Paul PIP is neither means tested nor related to any household income, it is purely based on how your disability affects your life. You coukd be a disabled billionaire and be entitled to it.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Beckyoz · 1 days ago
      @Oggi there are 2 types of ESA. One taxable which is not means tested
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      cja52 · 24 days ago
      @Paul hi,im no expert,but from my understanding.you will get the same amount of pip,but will not be able to get the full amount of other benefits,ie universal credit/new esa benefit,housing benefit,disability premium.hope this is of some help
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Oggi · 24 days ago
      @Paul Hi Paul.
      Your PIP should not be affected as it is not an income related benefit.
      Benefits like income related ESA, UC etc would be affected by any household income your wife brings home. Also if you receive contributions based ESA this would not be affected by your wife's income.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Anna Michelle · 27 days ago
      @Paul Please get in touch with your …”Benefit Maximisation Team”… through the local council. Also contact the Citizens Advice bureau. Try not to worry too much, pip is not like other benefits, you can work etc, it’s about individual needs and everyday living. Good luck 💜
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Frank Birchenough · 28 days ago
    No sign of increased tax inspectors yet? The Tory government has slashed the number of fraud investigators in HMRC, culminating in the massive frauds being perpetrated during lockdown. They have written off vast sums gifted to their friends, as even the Daily Mail reported, albeit rather quietly (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10410325/Treasury-writes-4-3bn-taken-fraudsters-furlough-business-support-lockdown.html) But we have yet to see widespread prosecutions for this. With a few exceptions, the most the government has been able to bring themselves to do is use different bodies they control to ban directors from being directors. Depressingly typical is this from last year - "Director banned for £150k Bounce Back Loan fraud"
    "A Rotherham-based director has been banned after setting up three companies with the sole purpose of fraudulently obtaining £150,000 worth of Bounce Back Loans" - (https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/business/finance-strategy/director-banned-for-ps150k-bounce-back-loan-fraud)
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    scott · 28 days ago
    Does arrest go both way,the DWP owe me over £4k so I can go to my local JC and arrest the
    manager ? what would the police or courts think
    about that.I doubt the queen would give royal
    consent to a hair brained scheme like this.
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Justin. · 24 days ago
      @scott She didn’t at the last opening of Parliament-she left her Crown on her seat & let ‘Chules’ read it out:she can see the writing is on the wall as this country slides into a fascist dictatorship & didn’t want any part of it!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Hetty. · 27 days ago
      @scott You can read here about 'royal assent' and the process used.
      https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/laws/passage-bill/lords/lrds-royal-assent/
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Frank Birchenough · 28 days ago
      @scott Dear Scott, she has no power to interfere. The fiction that the monarch "approves" legislation is one that should be removed to expose the government to scrutiny.  The fact is we live in a county with no effective constitution, as ably demonstrated by the actions of Boris Johnson. You may remember a furore about parliament being prorogued. This is done by an order in council, with ministers using the supposed power of the monarch to shut down parliament. The Queen has no say in this. She has to agree. All a farce to deflect criticism from the real people in power.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    anonymous · 28 days ago
    Disgusting - considering the already hostile environment the DWP and Tories have created now they'll be able to threaten claimants with prison to withdraw benefit claims. Considering how frequently they illegally doctor reports and assessments this is one power they should never have as it is wide open to abuse and antagonise legitimate claimants with threats of prison or a huge fine when they have done nothing wrong. What's stopping them making threats off the record to stop claimants making a claim in the first place - it will happen as soon as this is brought in. Considering they already drive people to suicide and destitution I can imagine they'll be rubbing their hands in glee with this new tool in their arsenal to force claimants to commit suicide or stop a claim.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    AndyB · 28 days ago
    If you're going to give extra powers for prevention of fraud then you need to demonstrate that there is sufficient fraud to justify the extra expenditure. Frankly I'd like to see the numbers broken down better as the powers are as much aimed at UC where we quite rightly point out that only DLA/PIP has such a low fraud rate.

    Before the powers are granted, there needs to be a rigid framework of oversight on the DWP to ensure the extra power is properly used. Current powers are used with zero oversight or liability so further powers should be withheld.

    Certainly the police have been significantly improved over recent years given enhanced transparency and oversight - still a ways to go yet.

    Any organisation which can stop your benefits based on non-return of a form, which had been sent in five weeks prior (but acknowledged mail opening over six weeks delayed) should surely not be trusted with powers of search and seizure if they can't even open the mail!
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Amanda · 28 days ago
    The job was for three hours per week as a school lunchtime lady. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    ELinda · 28 days ago
    This is terrifying news. We have already heard about claimants being bullied or claimants comments being ignored to reduce successful claims. With these powers how do we know they won't start falsifying evidence to gain convictions? Especially if they are paid on a commission  or bonus scheme. Who will police them? 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Amanda · 28 days ago
    I get PIP. Several years ago I tried a part time job (minimal hours) to try and boost my confidence to try working. I wrote to DWP, told them everything and said  I was going to do 'permitted' work before I started. I knew I was within the criteria for earnings and hours worked. Months later I got a fraud letter, asking me in for fraud interview. I was in bits. I went for the interview. Long story short.... They say they never received my letter, then said I never showed up for the fraud interview (which I did). They then said as I had not complied with any of their requests (which I had) they stopped all my benefits for three months (in the kids summer holidays). I'm a single parent. I was traumatised. Months later they said.... Oh yeah we found your original letter you sent and confirmed I had turned up for the fraud interview. But no apology!  I had a panick attack at the job and left. Never would I try 'permitted work' again. Imagine if they had these powers of arrest!!! 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Mike · 28 days ago
    How likely is this to pass into law if the government changes?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    FionaFeels · 28 days ago
    They won’t be happy until they’ve killed off all disabled persons. It’s a disgrace. This is open to abuse by over zealous DWP staff and targets for bonuses.
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Diana · 28 days ago
    I am utterly horrified by this. IT's completely against human rights. If this news becomes public the Tories don't stand a chance at he next election. We will be looking out of the window for the SS. The amount of benefit fraud is miniscule. Why target the disabled again and again?
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Slinky · 28 days ago
    This can't come as a surprise to anyone, the DWP have always treated claimants like criminals! As for being able to fine someone if the don't have enough evidence to bring about a criminal case for fraud, this could only be done as a private prosecution, much like a private parking company sending you a 'Parking Charge Notice', it's not a 'Criminal Matter'. 
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anne · 28 days ago
    This is appalling. A few years ago the DWP contacted me to say they were looking into my claim as they had suspicions of fraud. The letter was very scary as it said I would be questioned under caution. I was in a terrible state as I have always done everything by the book and never been in trouble with the police in my life. It turned out that it was their mistake. I had to pay back the overpayments but was never given an apology for what they put me through. I put in a formal complaint which was totally ignored as was a follow up letter from me. I know they received these letters as I sent them via special delivery. I thought of taking this further but couldnt face the stress of it all.

    So, if anyone thinks as Diamond says that if 'you are genuine then you should have nothing to fear' I would think again. I was genuine and they put me through hell. I dread to think what it would have been like if this new law was in place.

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