Substantial amounts recovered and saved through fraud investigations
Benefit fraud investigators working for South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils helped to recover more than £640,000 in fraudulent overpayments in the last year and helped to prevent fraudulent claims worth a further £1.3 million.
Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 we successfully took action against 112 people across southern Oxfordshire who we found had claimed money they were not entitled to. This was a big increase from the previous year when we took action against 87 people.
The action will eventually result in the recovery of just under £374,000 in South Oxfordshire and almost £270,000 in the Vale of White Horse. We recover this money through various individually assigned payment schemes. The figures also compare favourably to 2010/11 when we recovered a combined total of £310,000.
The work has also helped to prevent more than £554,000 of potential future fraudulent payments from taking place in South, and helped save just under £800,000 from leaving the public purse in Vale.
Among the 112 people we took action against we successfully prosecuted 21 in court (ten from South, 11 from Vale), we cautioned 67 (32 from South, 35 from Vale), and we fined a further 24 (14 from South, ten from Vale).
The majority of those caught admitted that they had failed to report at least one change in circumstance, including many who had been working while claiming benefits, which affected the amount of money they were entitled to.
There were also a number of claimants whom we convicted in court of the more serious charge of dishonestly making a false statement on their original application for benefits.
The court imposed a range of punishments including suspended prison sentences, curfew orders, unpaid work and substantial fines, as well as ordering the fraudsters to re-pay money that they had wrongly claimed.
Cllr David Dodds, Cabinet Member for Finance at South Oxfordshire District Council said: “Our investigation work has resulted in the recovery of a substantial amount of tax payers’ money across both districts and this year we see an impressive rise in both the numbers caught and the amount we’ve recovered. All of those who have been caught may have gained in the short term but they are now paying as a result and will be feeling the consequences of their crimes for quite some time to come.”
Cllr Matthew Barber, Cabinet Member for Finance and Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “The results are a clear demonstration that we are very effective at detecting and stamping out benefit fraud, and therefore helping to prevent millions from wrongly being taken out of the public purse. The message is now very clear, try to play the system and you’ve got a very good chance of being caught and brought to justice.”
If you suspect that someone you know is claiming benefits they are not entitled to please contact our benefit fraud hotline on 0800 1695716 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.