Vast majority of calls to hotline fail due to lack of evidence
Almost nine out of 10 of calls to the UK government’s benefits cheat hotline are abandoned because they lack evidence.
The line, set up in 2010 by the Tory-Lin Dem coalition government, was launched amid controversy, with campaigners criticising it for pitching poor against poor.
Now a Freedom of Information request has revealed that 887,468 of the 1,041,219 reports of fraud were closed and deemed to have no or insufficient evidence.
Owen Smith, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “In a bid to distract people from the brutal impact of their cuts, the Tories have been trying desperately to turn communities against each other.
“Time and again they are labelling people who rely on our social security system, like low paid workers on tax credits or universal credit and bedroom tax victims, as scroungers.
“This is clearly having some impact as thousands of honest people are being falsely accused of fraud.
“If this Tory government had any decency they’d realise how destructive this is and change course, but I’m not holding my breath.”
This McCarthy-style reporting of benefit fraud is another example of the government’s desire to turn people against the welfare state
Benefit fraud costs the taxpayer £1.3 billion a year, 0.8% of all welfare spending. However, £700m disappears due to DWP errors and another £1.1bn is lost through claimant error.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, added: “The alarming number of incorrect reports shows the system has failed, it should be the DWP which investigates benefit fraud, not your closest neighbours.
“This McCarthy-style reporting of benefit fraud is another example of the government’s desire to turn people against the welfare state and to treat sick and disabled people as second-class citizens.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “Information from the public about suspected benefit fraud saved the taxpayer around £180m last year.
“We take benefit fraud very seriously, so whenever we receive an allegation we investigate, and if necessary, prosecute and recover overpaid benefits.”