New benefit fraud campaign targets tiny part of UK unnecessarily

Fri, 03/01/2014 - 14:21 -- nick

The government is today launching a new anti-fraud and error campaign - but in just six small areas of the UK.

The chosen few - Southwark, Blackburn, Hounslow, Blackpool, Epping Forest and Cardiff - will be targeted with billboards, newspaper adverts, Facebook adverts and letters to claimants.

These will ask claimants to report changes in their circumstances and also ask all citizens to shop those they believe are claiming benefits fraudulently.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said:

"It is only a small minority who commit fraud – but it costs the country over £1bn a year.

"We are keen to make sure that claimants know that even small overpayments can really add up over time, so they must get in contact with us and let us know about changes in circumstances straightaway.

"The new pilot campaign will help us stop fraud and overpayments before they even happen."

The government has already attracted criticism for ill-thought-out poster campaigns in the last few months.

Its 'racist van' - a mobile billboard that told immigrants to 'go home' - was driven round selected areas of London in October 2013 until the advert used was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for using misleading statistics.

As with the current benefits campaign, its aim appeared to be to appeal to the right wing of its own party and to attract supporters from UKIP, explaining why it has been released on such a small scale.

Benefit fraud represents only 0.7% of the total benefit bill and has been falling in recent years.

More has been underpaid in benefits than claimed fraudulently each year, suggesting that the government should first attempt to mend this situation by publicising entitlements, particularly as individuals are less able to cope with the loss of income than the state.

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