Benefit claimants will need to make a New Year’s Resolution to stay on the right side of the law after the Government announced a crackdown.
Hounslow borough has been chosen as one of six places in the UK to pilot a new scheme aimed at preventing fraud or errors leading to overclaiming taking place.
The central pillar of the pilot, which launched today (Friday) and runs for six weeks, is an advertising campaign featuring posters, newspaper adverts, social media alerts and letters to claimants all urging people to report suspected fraud or changes to their own circumstances.
These include getting a job or moving in with a partner because forgetting to do results in more money than they are now entitled to being paid out. The longer that goes on, the greater the risk of fraud proceedings being started which will eventually land claimants in court.
The adverts and posters will include satellite images of the major towns in Hounslow as well as local landmarks.They carry statements such as:
GOT A NEW JOB?
MAKE SURE YOU TELL US.
We’re checking benefit claims.
WHEN YOU REPORT BENEFIT FRAUD WE INVESTIGATE IT.
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE CLAIMING BENEFITS WHO SHOULDN’T BE, CALL US.
Help us catch benefit cheats.
Letters to claimants will highlight the importance of notifying the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances, how it is everyone’s own responsibility to inform authorities of a change, and the risk of a financial penalty of up to £2,000 or criminal prosecution for failing to do so.
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 other five pilot locations are: Southwark, Blackburn, Blackpool, Epping Forest and Cardiff. Members of the public can anonymously report benefit fraud to the National Benefit Fraud hotline on 0800 854 440 or online .