National data scheme set to expose all benefit cheats

BENEFIT cheats are set to be named and shamed in Rotherham as the local authority prepares to take part in a national data-matching exercise.

The ‘National Fraud Initiative’ is run once every two years by the Audit Commission and requires local authorities, such as Rotherham Borough Council, police and fire authorities, to download and share different sets of information and data.

Under the Audit Commission Act of 1998, Rotherham Borough Council is required to provide housing rents data along with housing benefit claimants, payroll, student loans and pension payroll.

This data, such as payroll and housing rents, is then cross-matched to identify possible incidences of fraud or overpayment. Examples of such matches could be council tenants with council properties in two different authorities, or a public sector employee claiming housing benefit but failing to declare an income that would preclude or reduce entitlement to benefits.

The collection and submission of data will take place in October, and the actual processing and matching of information will take place over November and December. Local authorities will receive the results and any data matches in January.

The use of data for NFI purposes continues to be controlled to ensure compliance with data protection and human rights legislation.

The last National Fraud Initiative in 2010 to 2011 helped trace almost £229 million in fraud, error and overpayments throughout England.

Coun. Jahangir Akhtar, deputy leader of Rotherham Council said: “Although we are obliged to take part in this scheme it is worthwhile because such schemes do have a a positive effect on benefit fraudsters. Since the initiative began in 1996, the programme has helped identify a massive £939 million in fraud or error.”