What is Housing Benefit and Council Council Tax Support Fraud?
Benefit and Council Tax Support fraud is where people claim Housing and Council Tax Support 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 Support to genuine claimants, but we are equally keen to stamp out benefit fraud. There is an active Investigation Team that is responsible for the detection and investigation of fraudulent claims.
Help stop benefit cheats by reporting a cheat anonymously through the DWP website.
What types of fraud are there?
Typical examples of benefit and council tax support fraud are:
- People who work but do not declare this when they claim benefits and council tax support
- 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 housing benefit and council tax support
- People who for any reason do not have any right to claim Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support
Report Benefit Fraud
To report suspected fraud, you can ring the benefit fraud hotline on 01200 414465 where a trained member of staff will take any information you can provide. Calls are treated in absolute confidence. You can also ring the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854 440 which is a free phone number. Or, you can complete the online Benefit Fraud Report Form.
Does the investigation team have access to other organisations?
The Investigation team has access to various anti-fraud organisations such as:
Local Authority Investigation Officers Group (LAIOG)
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 and the Data Protection which is relative to their fraud enquiries. www.laiog.org
National Fraud Initiative
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. www.nafn.gov.uk
Loss of benefits
The rules around loss of benefit entitlement following a benefit fraud offence changed and came into effect on 1 April 2010.
If you commit an offence for the first time resulting in a conviction, administrative penalty or caution, it will be subject to a 'One Strike' sanction. This means you could 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.
Loss of benefits if you are convicted of fraud
You will lose your benefits for up to 3 years if you are convicted of benefit fraud. How long you lose them for will depend on how many times you have committed fraud.
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. These disqualifying benefits 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. The Council cannot provide you legal advice or recommend a solicitor to you.
You can get advice from;
Lancashire County Council - Benefits Advice Service
The Globe Centre
St James Square
Phone - 0300 123 6739
19 Wesleyan Row
Phone - 01200 428966