Housing benefit fraud
22/01/2009 5:08 pm
Like a gunslinger in a western the government warned benefit cheats that ‘this town aint big enough for the both of us’ last week.
It’s planning to introduce a new ‘one-strike’ system, where people who commit a single act of fraud face having their benefits, including housing benefit, slashed or stopped for periods of up to four weeks.
The change would replace the current ‘two strikes’ policy and controversially would also see the punishment handed out in cases that did not result in a criminal conviction.
But is the government’s tougher line the right course of action? Or by removing benefits so quickly does it risk creating wider social problems that social landlords will have to spend time and resources mopping up?
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22/01/2009 7:12 pm
Is this reciprocal?
I refer of course to the (central government) report published a few months months back that revealed the HB losses of £1.8bn per year - and specifically to the fact that almost 70% of this was the fault of the HB depts!!!!! That is not fraud by the claimant but incompetence by the HB depts and I assume that as these must be 'general errors' they are not recoverable.
Hence if central govt want to punish those who cost the taxpayer money then does one strike and your out mean mass sackings for HB staff? After all they have lost 70% of the money and not the "criminal" claimant.
How about a shop-an-incompetent HB officer freephone number being advertised. Again - i restate 70% of losses was due to 'general error' incompetence - more than twice the cost to the public purse than the so-called fraudulent or criminal claimant.
But lets get back to reality. That isnt going to happen is it. Yet it makes perfect sense if (a) the govt wants to get 'tough', and (b) more importantly save the taxpayer / public purse money.
Of course, incompetence is not fraud. Yet incompetence on this scale is criminal. To seemingly ignore recouping 70% of your losses and to perpetuate a myth that the public purse is damaged solely by fraudulent claims is not akin to a gunslinger.
It is more akin to the worse excesses of knowingly labelling and falsely accusing one strata of society whilst also taking away their rights by assuming guilt first (anyone think of despotic regimes that have done that in the past?) The fact that those officers who will assume and label this guilt also happen to work in the same depts as those who wrongly lose the pulic purse in the first place is yet another point away from a western gunslinger analogy - again akin to despotism.
Are such staff going to be on perfomance related pay as well one wonders?
This is more than farcical, it beggars belief.
Perhaps an automatic £5000 or even £50000 compensation payment should be made to those falsely accused or not convicted and also not count towards 'capital' in terms of assessing benefits thereafter?
In summary, I have nothing against going after benefit fraudsters. What I strongly object to is peoples democratic right to the presumption of innocence being taken away by the chief CULPRITS of housing benefit losses, who themselves are not brought to book for their incompetence.
23/01/2009 12:22 pm
So housing's to be used as an instrument of social control again? And who's going to cover our costs when these people slide into arrears and we have to chase them? Other tenants, that's who. It'll save the government a few quid but it'll cost more in arrears management as people slide into arrears and those arrears incur the management costs all arrears incur. But it will make the government look 'hard', please a few Daily Mail readers and the only people to really suffer by it will be social tenants. And yes the fraudsters may have committed a criminal offence but driving them into further debt makes as much sense as fining prostitutes for soliciting. Government as pimp, the whole idea's little short of entrapment. I'm exasperated more than cross but come on people, think things through.
25/01/2009 5:35 pm
As someone who was on the receiving end of such treatment I can only agree with these posts.
I was threatened with fraud investigation, I was the one that had to prove that I was not guilty and if I had not kept the evidence to prove so I have no doubt I would be facing a court trial and having to repay over 5000 pounds.
It seems that many of the people constructing such harsh rules either have no real experience of the battles faced by those in need or more likely they rely on evidence provided by the DWP
29/01/2009 12:43 pm
My HA is about to claim thousands of pounds, and has done so before, from the LA in the form of service charges. The HA know that these services are not provided to tenants but perhaps rely on the fact that tenants on benefits will not dispute these. Especially the elderly and infirm. The outcome is that the local LA are giving out thousands and do nothing to check the facts of the matter. It is a scam with tenants caught between a rock and a hard place.
Will HB departments now think about recovering some of this fraud? Too hard perhaps?
29/01/2009 6:00 pm
If the service charges are not detailed on your tenancy agreement and specifically changed in terms of amount each year and notified to tenant and to HB dept then they cant be claimed.
31/01/2009 1:12 pm
Tell that to my HA. I have asked for action on this issue so many times, have even been to the Housing Ombudsman and have recently asked for action on the latest set of service charges- they just ignore tenants.
I am, to be quite honest, exhausted with the HA and the LA. Complaints are not answered and the arrogance is something else. But thank you anyway. Tenants give the details of increases to HB who then pay the charges but the HA lie about what services are provided- this is what they have got away with, from what i can see, for years. They change contractors without consultation, employ contractors on higher rates without consultation and deprecation is code for grab some more money from tenants. The list goes on and on.
31/01/2009 3:56 pm
firstname.lastname@example.org , I agree with you. I have ongoing problems with my housing association too. Mine is London and Quadrant, is yours London and Quadrant as well?
02/02/2009 2:34 pm
What do landlords think about the stronger line the government is taking on benefit fraud? It sounds like tenants and residents are unhappy with the proposals. Are landlords sympathetic to their concerns or do they feel a harsher regime is needed?
03/02/2009 1:05 pm
If it was that the LA's were well trained and did not treat tenants like pariaha's and all was fair and above board then of course a strict regime should be in place to safeguard public funds. However, we all know that qiuite often the people employed are poorly trained, at times find it difficult to add up and are so rude that a deep breath has to be taken before speaking to them.
I wrote to my La about three months ago, for example, to ask a number of questions regarding my HB and CT. I am still waiting for a reply. So bad is their service that I do not call them now as I once did but write and keep re-sending until they aknowledge they have received the email. This seems to be the only way of getting their attention. The only way, it seems, of making them sit up and take notice is to go public via the local media but how embarrasing to have to shout out your private business in public! I am now going to the housing ombudsman but hold no hope.
03/02/2009 1:13 pm
My Ha is English Churches Housing, my LA is Bromley Kass. Nice to know I am not alone.
06/08/2011 2:16 pm
I am being accused of benefit fraud, all they have told me is that they are disputing the time that my now husband moved into my property. I tel them to let them know he had moved in and they stopped my HB and I was unable to pay my rent (i am in LA housing) therefore the LA are taking me to court to evict me, as the rent arrears are now £1000. I have no spare money because my husband fell sick and is unable to claim ESA money cos not enough stamps last year due to work climate. He did not claim JSA therefore stamp not paid. What with the promise of eviction, very little income, the inferrance of benefit fraud, my brother dying 4 weeks ago, I dont think I can take much more. I am on an early pension due to health reasons. Can anyone help with this problem.
06/08/2011 2:58 pm
Apply for a loan/s to your LA and DHSS. Given your circumstances they would have no excuses to deny it. Then offer to pay whatever you can afford towards arrears, do it in writing and keep copies.
06/08/2011 5:19 pm
Sorry, I don't know more than that. You have to inquiry and see if there is this possibility with your LA. Whether some or all of them have some discretionary money for loans I am not entirely sure. There are also charities who help to fight people losing their homes and become homeless. But I can't tell you now. If I remember any I will post it. Hopefully someone else reading this board might give you more information than I have. You may inquiry with Shelter, and they might give you some more info.
08/08/2011 10:46 am
thankyou for your replies. Tenant plus that is helpful I shall contact them today (Monday) We have been living like this for 6 months, under the threat now of eviction, the pressure is really too much. They say on the info that comes with the letter that, they are not saying you are guilty of anything, they are just giving you the chance to put your side accross??
Should I take someone to the interview with the DWP and Council???
08/08/2011 12:11 pm
Yes, you should take a lawyer. Go and see a lawyer, they will do it on legal aid so you don't have to pay. look for a good lawyer who has dealt with similar cases before. Go to your local benefit advice centre is there is one and usually they have a list of lawyers.