Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (247, 248, 249, 250, 251)

Terence Flanagan

Question:

247. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm the approximate timeframe after a suspected case of benefit fraud is reported to her Department that the matter is investigated by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11787/14]

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Terence Flanagan

Question:

248. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection if she will confirm of those suspected benefit fraud cases that have been referred to her Department by members of the public that have resulted in a prosecution or a person's benefit being cut, the percentage which consisted of jobseeker's allowance claims, disability allowance claims, one-parent family claims, and carer's allowance claims; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11788/14]

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Terence Flanagan

Question:

249. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of investigations that are pending following reports from the public of suspected benefit fraud cases to her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11794/14]

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Terence Flanagan

Question:

250. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected benefit fraud reported to her Department by members of the public that have resulted in a claimant's benefit being cut and a prosecution for benefit fraud; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11795/14]

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Terence Flanagan

Question:

251. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Social Protection the number of cases of suspected benefit fraud that were reported to her Department in the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11796/14]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 247 to 251, inclusive, together.

The Department of Social Protection receives reports of possible fraud from members of the public in relation to the operation of its schemes. A dedicated phone number and a facility on the Department’s website is available for this purpose. It should be borne in mind that while there is often a perception of fraud, when a case is examined the individual may, in fact, be doing something that is allowed under the rules of the particular payment that they are receiving. For example, a person can work and receive a One-Parent Family Payment, provided their earnings are within the limits and the Department is aware of the situation.

All anonymous or confidential reports are examined and, where relevant, are referred to scheme areas or inspectors for follow-up action. While a payment is not suspended or stopped on the basis of an anonymous report, the report may, however, “trigger” a review of a customer’s entitlement. Anonymous reports are not available to Deciding Officers when they are making their decisions on cases. The Deciding Officer’s decision must be based on the full facts and circumstances of the case and, as a result, statistics are not available on the outcome of anonymous reports. The following are the number of anonymous reports received in the Department’s Control Division in the period 2011 to 2013:

-

2011

2012

2013

Total

16,917

28,022

24,720

There were 22,420 reports processed in 2013. A report of suspected fraud was referred to the relevant area for examination in 15,431 of these cases and 6,989 other cases were not referred for various reasons such as, not possible to process due to lack of information, no claim being in payment or the information reported had no impact on entitlement.

The following is the scheme breakdown of the reports referred to scheme areas for further investigation:

Scheme Breakdown

No.

Jobseekers cases (include JA & JB)

6,196

SWA

3,177

One-Parent Family cases (include WOPS)

3,892

Illness

2,151

Child Benefit

462

Other

3,462

Total

19,340

The total scheme breakdown is more than the 15,431 cases referred as some clients may be in receipt of more than one payment.

As outlined above, anonymous reports are used to “trigger” or instigate investigations but they do not form any part of the evidence and are not taken into account when the review of the customer’s payment is being decided. Therefore, detailed statistics of the timeframe taken to investigate anonymous reports, the number of investigations pending or the outcomes of anonymous reports are unavailable. Furthermore, anonymous or confidential reports of abuse do not form any part of the evidence when a case is being considered for prosecution.

Question No. 252 withdrawn.