Frequently Asked Questions
Tameside MBC is committed to the prevention, deterrence and detection of Housing and Council Tax Benefit Fraud
In 2009/2010, Tameside MBC discovered 347 fraudulent claims to the value of £755,000 in overpaid Housing and Council Tax Benefit. Of these cases, 129 resulted in prosecution or other sanctions which included penalties totalling £29,000.
Tameside MBC always takes action to recover the overpaid benefit.
- What Types of Fraud Are There?
- Does The Investigation Team Have Access to Other Organisations?
- How Can I Report Suspected Benefit Fraud?
- The 'One Strike' Sanction - Changes to Loss of Benefit Rules
To contact us or to report suspected fraud, you can use the on-line form or ring the Benefit Fraud Hotline Service 0800 328 6340 which is a free phone number and all calls are treated in absolute confidence. A trained member of staff will take any information you can provide regarding people committing benefit.
Benefit fraud is where people claim Housing and Council Tax Benefit and/or Social Security Benefits but have no right to claim it.
The Council is keen to make prompt payments of Housing and Council Tax benefit to genuine claimants, but we are equally keen to stamp out benefit fraud. There is an active Investigation Team that is responsible for detection and investigation of fraudulent claims. The team is aided by staff in the Council's Revenues team who report any suspicious benefit claims. Last year over one million pounds of benefit fraud was detected.
Take a look at the Stop Benefit Fraud DVD which shows typical Housing Benefit Fraud and the effects it has on you and the community.
If you do not have Realplayer, please visit www.real.com (for free Realplayer download).
Blatant Benefit Cheats Are Being Prosecuted:
A Denton woman pleaded guilty to making false claims for Housing Benefit, amounting to £54,000 for the house in which she lived. She fraudulently declared that she paid rent to a landlord, when in fact she jointly owned the property with her husband.
At court she was sentenced to a 2-year suspended prison sentence with a 12 month supervision order.
Due to the nature and amount of the fraud, a confiscation order was granted by the court, which resulted in the woman being ordered to pay £94,000 within 12 months. Non-payment within the specified period carries a custodial sentence.
The woman had to sell her house in order to raise funds to accommodate the confiscation order.
A husband and wife from Ashton-under-Lyne pleaded guilty to claiming in excess of £28,000 in benefits, over a nine year period.
They failed to declare that the wife had started work at a care centre, and falsely continued to claim benefits.
To avoid detection, the woman had used her maiden name for work purposes, with her wages paid into a previously undeclared bank account.
In sentencing the couple received a 13-month suspended prison sentence and were ordered to pay £955 in costs. In addition, the husband was handed a 6 month supervision order, and the wife was ordered to carry out 220 hours of unpaid work.
Typical examples of benefit fraud are:
- People who work but do not declare this when they claim benefit.
- People who claim as a single person but actually live with a partner.
- People who claim from an address but do not live there.
- People who do not tell us the full amount of income, savings or capital when they claim benefit.
- People who for any reason do not have any right to claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax benefit.
The Investigation team has access to various anti-fraud organisations such as:
Local Authority Investigation Officers Group (LAIOG)
Approximately approximately 400 Local Authorities subscribe to the Local Authority Investigations Officers Group across England, Scotland and Wales. The group aims to provide its members with access to information from Parliamentary sources, the Department of Work and Pensions, Data Protection and the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate, which is relative to their fraud enquiries.
Benefit Fraud Inspectorate
The Benefit Fraud Inspectorate (BFI) was launched in November 1997 in response to widespread concerns about the estimated high levels of fraud in the Social Security system. Their mission is to maximise counter fraud performance and minimise the risk of fraud throughout the Social Security System.
National Anti Fraud Network (NAFN)
The aim of the network is to make available a national intelligence service to assist in deterring, detecting and preventing fraud. It also aims to provide a regular source of intelligence and focal points for Local Authorities on a wide range of fraud related matters.
Please complete this online fraud reporting form if you suspect someone is committing fraud against Tameside MBC.
Alternatively you can ring the Benefit Fraud Hotline Service on 0800 328 6340 which a free phone number and all calls are treated in absolute confidence. A trained member if staff will take any information you can provide regarding people committing benefit fraud.
Important changes to the rules around loss of benefit entitlement following a benefit fraud offence came into effect on 1st April 2010.
If you commit a first offence resulting in a conviction, administrative penalty or caution, it will be subject to a 'One Strike' sanction. This means you may lose your right to continue receiving benefit payments for a four-week period. You will be notified if the 'One Strike' sanction is applied to your benefits.
If you are convicted of two separate benefit fraud offences within five years, you may find your entitlement to certain benefits is reduced or withdrawn for an even longer period. This is known as the 'Two Strikes' sanction, and you'll be notified if it's applied to your benefits.
Benefits which can be withdrawn or reduced are called sanctionable benefits. These include but are not limited to:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Incapacity Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance
- Pension Credit
Disqualifying benefits are not sanctionable themselves, but benefit fraud offences involving them may lead to a loss of benefit sanction against other benefits. Examples include:
- Attendance Allowance
- Child Benefit
- Disability Living Allowance
- Retirement Pension
Some benefits, such as Tax Credits and Statutory Sick Pay, are not involved in the 'loss of benefit' sanction process at all.
If you are facing prosecution for benefit fraud or being asked to pay a penalty as an alternative to prosecution, it's a good idea to seek legal advice from a solicitor, or consult an experienced adviser.