Too often we see benefit cheats convicted because their benefits
from the DWP have ceased (they may have got a job), but they
have failed to tell the council that is also paying them benefits!
This is ridiculous. We are past the age of pen and paper. It must
be simple for the DWP to generate automatic messages when someone
comes off benefit, even if direct communication between databases
at a reasonable cost is beyond the government IT function.
As well as the finacial argument, there is also a moral case for
closing this gaping loophole. Benefit fraud is easy to commit, but
often hard to detect and prosecute. We owe it to taxpayers and to
vulnerable claimants to make the crime harder to commit if we can.
But here's some good news. Every two years the Audit Commission
runs the National Fraud Initiative (NFI), comparing databases. Across
the UK, almost 1,500 organisations supply around 4,500 sets of data
in areas including housing benefit, payroll and pensions.
This can, for instance, reveal dead people still making annual
claims for their disabled blue badges, or people employed by one
arm of the state telling the DWP they're unemployed. People who
claim to be single and living alone may show up as married and probably