“Citizens Advice acknowledges that the £1.5bn cost of fraud in the benefit system must be recovered, but we are very concerned at the government's persistent tendency to roll fraud and error figures together. Errors account for the remaining £3.7bn of the £5.2bn figure quoted. Some errors are caused by benefits claimants failing to report their circumstances correctly, more often than not because the system is so complex. But just as many are caused by government agents giving the wrong advice or managing a claim inaccurately - Citizens Advice Bureaux see numerous cases of papers getting lost in the system because there is no proper tracking mechanism.
“Either way, the complexity of the system causes considerable extra expense for the government and distress for customers. We accept that the government aims to tackle the issue of error through its current plans to reform and simplify the system, and we urge the Treasury to recognise the importance of accepting the DWP's current proposals for a full reform of the tax, tax credits and benefits system as a holistic solution.
“In the meantime, the £5bn cost to government through fraud and error is dwarfed by the £17bn* of benefits and tax credits that remain un-claimed every year, because people don't know they are entitled to claim, or because the system is too complicated. The danger of making benefits more difficult to claim is that people in real need will not receive the money they need to pay their rent, keep their families warm, or feed their children."
* 2008/09 Government figures, released June 2010: £12.7bn unclaimed means tested benefits plus £5bn unclaimed tax credits.
This, according to the coalition's cheerleader-in-chief in Wales Peter Black, is a ringing endorsement of the Con-Dem coalition's crude and populist attacks on benefit claimants. Dream on, Peter.