Written Answers - Social Welfare Fraud

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 735 No. 2

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  339.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan  Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan   asked the Minister for Social Protection  Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton   if she will give consideration to a vetting system which can prevent fraud and at the same time ensure that hardship is not caused to the vulnerable; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15653/11]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Department has a broad-ranging and comprehensive control strategy. The emphasis is to minimise risks of fraud and eliminate incorrect payments. Ensuring that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time is an integral part of the day-to-day work of the Department.

Control activity is focused on prevention of fraud and error from the very first point of contact with customers i.e. claim application stage. Vetting cases at this stage is the most cost effective mechanism of reducing losses through fraud and error in social welfare schemes. All staff involved in administering schemes are aware of and understand the Department’s strategy in relation to control of fraud, abuse and error. Every staff member in the Department is responsible for the prevention of fraud and error.

Measures to control fraud and abuse include desk reviews of claim papers, home visits, the issue of mail-shots to selected customers, database checking, medical reviews in the case of illness payments etc. Controls are exercised at both the initial claim stage and at subsequent stages during the claim life cycle. Claims are reviewed on a regular and targeted basis. Means tested payments are reviewed at certain intervals or when there are indications that changes in circumstances have not been reported to the Department. Those in receipt of illness payments are called for a medical examination by the Department’s Medical Assessors.

Customers in receipt of jobseeker payments are vetted and checked on an ongoing basis to verify continued compliance with such requirements as being available for and genuinely seek[458]ing employment. Social welfare schemes share many of the same eligibility and risk factors. For example, in many schemes entitlement is affected by proof of identity, income/ assets, residency or relationship /marital status. Risk profiling is an important vetting tool because it enables the Department to prioritise and focus resources on those areas that are most vulnerable to fraud or abuse.

This Department uses risk profiling and data matching to identify high-risk schemes and high-risk customers within schemes. Examples include fraud and error surveys, targeted control projects, links with Northern Ireland/ U.K. and extensive data-matching. Each tool is used to risk profile beneficiaries that need on-going review for continuing eligibility. The results impact on policies in place for targeting fraud and error in the schemes.

Additionally, in some schemes a control screening tool is used that scores cases, both at time of application and after review, for the likelihood of overpayments. Cases that score high for potential risk of overpayment are then referred for review or investigation on a regular basis. Preventing someone, who is not eligible for payment, from receiving payment is more advantageous than identifying them after the fact because resources do not need to be spent later trying to recover improper payments. Controls have been very focused on ensuring applications meet the requirements for the scheme and on-going training is given to all staff about the importance of control measures.

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