Sunday, 26 February 2012


We've heard a lot recently about how much fiddling goes on in the benefits system. 

Since the days of Peter Lilley and his song and dance routine about having a little list, like Gilbert and Sullivan's KoKo, and how he was going to get all these people off said list, we have been demonizing people who claim benefits, without stopping to think about why some of them are claiming.

Politicians from the Tory camp to the Labour camp and now the Liberals have taken pleasure in carping about scroungers. And that's fair enough, because there are scroungers out there. Some of us will know someone who should be working but isn't trying, but that doesn't mean that all or even most of the people who are claiming unemployment benefits of some sort are scrounging.

And it's surprising how many people immediately assume that if you're on the dole you must be swinging the lead, until they, or their son, or niece or grandson is thrown out of work. Then of course, it's a different story and there are, suddenly and mysteriously, no jobs.

Horribly now there is evidence that disabled people, some even in wheelchairs and on sticks are being taunted with the "scrounger" label as they struggle to get on buses or do their shopping. And yes, once again there are people who are fiddling the country, but they are damned few.

A report by the Department of Work and Pensions which looks at overpayments and fraud in the benefits system shows that a very small amount of the benefit that is claimed is actually fraudulent.

The report is for 2010-11 and shows the following:
  • 0.8% of benefit spending is overpaid due to fraud, amounting to £1.2 billion;
  • This proportion is the same as in 2009/10.
Estimates for different benefits are:
  • Retirement Pension 0.0%;
  • Incapacity Benefit 0.3%;
  • Disability Living Allowance 0.5%;
  • Council Tax Benefit 1.3%;
  • Housing Benefit 1.4%;
  • Pension Credit 1.6%;
  • Income Support 2.8%;
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance 3.4%;
  • Carer’s Allowance 3.9%.
Of all the benefits, retirement pension has virtually no fraud, simply because you have to be over 65 to get it if you are a man, and over 61 if you are a woman. (Incidentally, so much for equality. Can you just imagine the hoo haa if it were the other way round?)

After that you have tiny amounts of Incapacity and DLA which are misclaimed. I'll lay money that the Incapacity Benefit fraud is almost always someone who HAS been ill but is now better, not volunteering that information immediately to DWP, and that the DLA fraud is almost all in the free cars given to the most disabled people on the highest level of help, and which are frequently used by other members of the family for their own use.
I'm happy that the government is looking into that fraud, but these figures (remember they are DWP, or government figures) show that 99.7% of Incapacity Benefit claims are genuine, and 99.5% of DLA are genuine. It seems a pity to be encouraging the nurses at ATOS to take genuinely ill people off these benefits, does it not, and it also seems rather unreasonable to tar everyone with a disability as a scrounger when such a great proportion of them are clearly not...(and all to save money because the bankers and the politicians made, and continue to make, a cock up of running the country).

It might be worth remembering too that most of the people in receipt of benefits have paid into National Insurance all their working lives in order to get benefits when something goes wrong in their lives...unlike MPs and Lords who simply fiddled their expenses because they thought they were worth more, and they were sure they would never be found out.


  1. Hi tris. Keep in mind, though, that the National Audit office has not signed off on the the DWP's books for years now and that DWP has worked on the basis of "It's not wrong if you don't know it's wrong" since the inception of Jobcentre Plus. Couple this philosophy with a cut in both investigators and checking regimes, there is a possibility that we just don't know what the true figures actually are.

    In saying that, the labelling of ALL benefit recipients as scroungers is a legacy that our politicians are determined to leave us with.

  2. Hi Don,

    Yes, I accept that no set of figures is perfect, certainly none from government. (Incidentally, I often hear about how the EU accounts haven't been signed off for years, but rarely about how few sets of accounts in the UK government are audited. So you're right to point out the inherent dangers of accepting these [indeed any]government figures.

    Even if they are faulty by 100% there is they still suggest that, at the sickness level the vast majority of claimants are genuine...even 200% or 500% still give a lie to the indecent emphasis that this, and the previous, London government (covering all the main UK parties) have given to this.

    The way that they have talked up fraud along with their friends at the Daily Wail; the way they have made sick and disabled people out to be scroungers, is sickening.

    So far there is virtually no fraud on retirement pension, but how long will it be before these women who chose to take their pensions at 61 will be labelled scroungers? How long before old people are attacked in the street for taking money.

    It's all to distract attention from big businessmen and women who like to give themselves bonuses in the millions. Mr Cameron professes himself "sick" (that man suffers a lot from sickness doesn't he?) of us putting down greedy businessmen/women, I wonder if he'd like to throw up over the way the disabled are treated.

  3. "Free cars"

    No such thing. There is a mobility component if DLA that the disabled person puts towards the cost of a car, often modified

    Free though, no, they pay, but they get help towards the cost

  4. You have to look at benefits not as benefits but as an insurance that we all pay for. Are there people fiddling the system? Of course there are, that is the nature of the beast. Are the majority law-abiding citizens? Of course they are unless you are a banker.

  5. Anon: Users surrender the higher mobility component of the DLA (£51). In that respect it costs them money. There are 120 cars that cost less than that amount. They can also lease cars that cost more than the allowance (in that there is an advance payment).

    The allowance is transferred to Motability and the car is provided. There is a mileage allowance of 20,000 for each of three years. The car is renewed after that. There is full insurance and tax and there is even a roadside breakdown cover included, along with servicing.

    The very cheapest car costs £44 a week, so there is actually a weekly£7 rebate.

  6. Yes exactly Ged. Most people are honest. The benefits system is so complex that even experts don't understand it, so sometimes the people who are cheating don't actually know they are cheating.

    I know of one old lady who had housing benefit; she actually had fair old fortune in the bank, which had been left to her, but she wasn't really aware that she had it (She was very old.) She never touched it, but it came to the authorities attention and she was done for cheating.

    I'd add the MPs and Lords to your bankers. They have consistently cheated, and continue to do so.