Social Protection Minister Joan Burton today published details of how savings of €669 million were achieved in 2012 through a broad range of control measures across Department of Social Protection schemes. The savings exceeded the target originally set for the year of €645 million.
In total, more than 1 million reviews of individual social welfare claims were carried out, again exceeding target, which had been set at 985,000.
Minister Burton has now set a target for €710 million in control savings to be achieved this year.
The Minister said:
These figures demonstrate once again my Department's commitment to stamping out welfare fraud and abuse. I have always championed the welfare system as a safety net for those who need it most, and that safety net is more important than ever in the current economic climate. However, it's precisely because the State's limited resources should go to those most in need that we need to prevent fraud and abuse in the system.
Control measures include all activities that the Department undertakes to ensure that people are receiving the correct amount of their entitlement. They are also aimed at preventing and detecting social welfare fraud. They range from mail shots whereby social welfare recipients confirm that eligibility conditions continue to be met, direct reviews of entitlement by inspectors and medical re-certification or examination to fraud and abuse investigations by the Department’s Special Investigation Unit.
. The key objective of the Fraud Initiative is to ensure that the right person is paid the right amount of money at the right time.
This year, the Department's total budget amounts to almost €20.3 billion and the public must have confidence that this money is being spent appropriately," Minister Burton said. "Social welfare fraud undermines confidence in the entire system and is unfair to genuine claimants and the taxpayers who fund the system in the knowledge that it is there for them when they need it.
The Progress Report sets out the progress made in 2012 across 10 key areas. Commenting on the report, the Minister pointed to the important work the Department is doing to tackle difficult issues such as “welfare tourism” and the recovery of overpayments.
Since June 2012, social welfare inspectors have had powers to question people at ports and airports whom they believe may be entering the country to claim social welfare payments fraudulently.
With regard to the recovery of overpayments, the Minister pointed out that the Department can now recover up to 15% of a person' core personal welfare payment in cases of overpayment whereas previously it had been as little as €2 a week. “This is a very important
development and means the Department can take the necessary steps to recover monies that have been overpaid in a timely manner,” the Minister said.
The Progress Report gives a number of examples of projects undertaken in 2012 to combat fraud and abuse.
In addition to the Progress Report, Minister Burton has also published two other reports today:
Child Benefit - Fraud and Error Survey
Non-Compliance Analytics Pilot Project
The Department will be considering the future use of risk analytics over the coming months.
Read the Fraud Initiative Progress Report here
Read the Child Benefit - Fraud and Error Survey here
Read the Non-Compliance Analytics Pilot Project here