Should the Department of Work and Pensions/ Local Authorities prosecute every allegation of benefit fraud?
In these times of austerity the simple answer might be a resounding 'yes'. However, what if, although there appears to have been a well founded allegation of benefit fraud (for example by the claimant's failure to declare a change in their circumstances or a failure to declare capital), there is no actual loss to the public purse?
There are those occasions when a legitimate claim is made for benefits and subsequently benefits are awarded. The claimant receives benefits but in an attempt to ‘make ends meet’ due to difficult times or a change in their circumstances, the claim becomes fraudulent due to their failure, for example, to declare income from a new job.
The claimant now finds themselves in receipt of state benefits plus a small amount of wages from the newly acquired employment. It further transpires, following the fraud investigation, that had the claimant sought advice about their financial circumstances, they would actually have been eligible for more financial support, ie by claiming Working Tax Credits instead of (for example) Employment Support Allowance.The irony being that they would have been ‘better off’ had they declared their true circumstances. The public purse in this instance was ‘better off’.
Should this claimant therefore still be prosecuted despite the lack of loss to the public purse? A question that is often one not pondered by the Authorities. However it is one that we regularly pose in seeking an alternative resolution to prosecution.
Contact Cecilia Goodwin on 020 7481 9157.