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Over €645 million saved through social welfare control measures - Burton

Social Protection Minister, Joan Burton, today outlined savings of €645 million which had been achieved across Department of Social Protection schemes through fraud prevention and control measures in 2011. Department of Social Protection officials reviewed some 982,000 individual claims for social welfare payments.

Welcoming the figures, Minister Burton said:

The level of savings achieved by the Department is well in excess of the target of €540 million set at the start of 2011 and it shows our commitment to tackling fraud and abuse of the social welfare system across our broad range of schemes.

In September 2011 Minister Burton launched a new fraud strategy, the Fraud Initiative 2011-2013. This initiative takes a revised and renewed approach to the challenges posed by social welfare fraud.

Commenting on the Fraud Initiative, Minister Burton noted:

The Programme for Government commits to a zero tolerance approach to social welfare fraud. A key priority for my Department is to ensure that fraudulent activity within the social welfare system is vigorously prevented and combated. Social welfare fraud undermines public confidence in the entire system as well as being unfair to other recipients of social welfare payments, taxpayers and businesses run on a legitimate basis… The increased amount of savings and reviews achieved within 2011 reflects the targeted approach to combating fraud as set out in the Initiative.

The Special Investigation Unit, established to detect and investigate suspected social welfare fraud, conducted over 30,000 fraud investigations; undertook a total of 750 employer inspections and generated fraud control savings of over €60 million in 2011.

Since 2009, there has been a trebling in anonymous reports of suspected abuse of the social welfare system, with almost 17,000 reports being made in 2011.

Commenting on these figures, Minister Burton said:

Each and every report made by a member of the public is followed up by the appropriate area to assess if action is necessary.

Read the full press release here.