Attacking ‘scrounging’ and ‘fraudulent’ benefit claimants has become a favourite pastime of politicians recently, with both Labour and Conservative ones competing to bash them. On this basis, one would assume that there is a high level of benefit fraud, with many claimants getting money that they are not entitled to. Yesterday the DWP released its own estimates of benefit fraud. It found that around 0.8% of the money allocated is due to fraudulent benefit claims. So 99.2% of benefit claims are legitimate. More money is lost to error than fraud.
The 0.8% represents a high absolute figure (£1.2 billion), and should be tackled, but demonising the vast majority of claimants as fraudsters doesn’t just mean that benefit claimants are being unfairly criticised (it can happen to anyone), but also that it distracts attention from the real issues in the benefit system: the complexity of the system and making it more worthwhile for benefit claimants to work. Given the high levels of fraud amongst MPs, all those attacking benefit claimants would be better off looking to themselves, particularly as a number of those selfsame politicians claimed excessive expenses.
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Filed in: Current affairs