BENEFITS swindlers and blunders by bosses cost taxpayers a record £4.1billion last year.
Spending watchdogs revealed that fraud and error in the welfare bill has reached its highest levels since 2006.
Much of the rise in fraud and overpayments is down to the troubled introduction of the Government’s flagship Universal Credit, the National Audit Office found[/caption]
The huge amount wasted is equal to the public cash set aside for emergency No-Deal Brexit planning.
Despite calls for a crackdown, officials say the problem will get even worse with overpayments expected to soar to a shocking £5.4bn by 2025.
Much of the rise is down to the troubled introduction of the Government’s flagship Universal Credit, the National Audit Office found.
Meanwhile benefits claimants and pensioners lost out on another £2bn they were entitled to, because officials short-changed them.
A staggering £1.4bn of the benefits money squandered was down to delays and mistakes by pen-pushers in the Department for Work and Pensions.
Another £1.1bn was wrongly handed out to claimants because they failed to give the right details about their income on time.
Last year the DWP only managed to claw back £400million of the money it wrongly handed out, and £2.5bn is still owed.
Last night Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “We have long been warning that Universal Credit will be challenging to administer because if the many variables in life. A change of job, hours worked, childcare or housing costs can all have an impact on how much you’re owed.
“The fact that the error rate is so high underlines these concerns. The Government needs to recognise the impact on people and reduce the error rate.
“The impact of an error can be devastating for individuals and families in low incomes.”
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Gareth Davies of the NAO said: “The value of fraud and error in benefit spending is a longstanding and costly issue for the Department. I am concerned that this has reached its highest rate since the current estimation method was introduced, and that the Department expects overpayments to rise even further.”
Last night the department headed by Amber Rudd said: “We rely on accurate information and updates from claimants to ensure we provide the right benefits, and are continuously improving this system.
“A minority of people abuse the system and we continue to challenge them using the full range of penalties at our disposal.”
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘We have long been warning that Universal Credit will be challenging to administer’[/caption]
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