Lincolnshire-wide crackdown on benefit fraud launched
A campaign has been launched by councils across Lincolnshire in an attempt to crack down on housing benefit fraud and error.
A Parliamentary report which looked at the annual expenditure of housing benefit in the UK found that most councils were affected by claimant error or deliberate fraud. In Lincolnshire the annual spend on housing benefit is £160,000,000, for around 52,500 households. As at May Boston Borough Council had 6,300 claimants.
Lincolnshire authorities have joined forces and are working together to support the Government's bid to cut the cost of fraud and error.
The Lincolnshire campaign, called "Tell Us", runs until March 2016.
The campaign's key message to housing benefit claimants is simple. If you claim housing benefit, Tell Us, about all changes in your circumstances such as:
- Money coming into the home - such as pensions, wages, other benefits or tax credits;
- People who live in your home;
- Savings and investments.
All Lincolnshire authorities will be checking their residents' housing benefit claims. As a priority, the initial focus will be on those considered a high risk of not having reported changes, which means they may have received too much housing benefit which will have to be paid back.
While most claims will be genuine and correct, the review is essential in order to find those that are wrong.
Some residents may have simply forgotten to let their council know that they have had a change in their circumstances, such as children moving out or leaving full-time education, getting a job or a pay increase. Changes such as these should be brought to the attention of the council as soon as possible to avoid claiming the wrong amount of housing benefit.
Now is the time to notify the council of a change before fraud investigators take more serious action which can include prosecution.
Cllr Aaron Spencer, Boston Borough Council's finance portfolio holder, said: "Anyone who claims housing benefit and has had a change in their circumstances that might affect the amount of benefit they receive should contact the council immediately. Most residents will be claiming the correct amount, and therefore do not need to worry. However it is an offence not to declare changes in circumstances, and anyone found to be in receipt of housing benefit that they are not entitled to may have to pay back the money and could face court action or financial penalty. Tell us. We want to help claimants avoid being in such a position."
To report a change in your circumstances, please contact Boston Borough Council now on 01205 314202 www.boston.gov.uk/tellus
The Government has made funding available to support Lincolnshire's local authorities, boosting their capability and capacity for tackling benefit fraud.
The Lincolnshire Counter Fraud Partnership comprises of counter fraud specialists and subject area experts from Lincolnshire County Council and seven district councils.
The partnership aims to:
- Deliver joint fraud proactive exercises across Lincolnshire;
- Develop and deliver an effective co-ordinated fraud awareness programme;
- Share intelligence, investigative resource, expertise and best practice.