Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to face fines of at least £50 for “preventable” errors in their benefits claims. The government expects to levy more than £60m in these civil penalties in the next four years, it revealed in its welfare reform proposals.
Errors could include failure to inform the authorities of a change of address or a partner moving into their home. A union called the plans “shameful” and “unnecessarily punitive”.
Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to introduce a civil penalty around the time of last October’s Spending Review. But finer details of the plans – including the amount the government expects to levy in fines – was detailed in its welfare reform proposals.
With an estimated £5bn lost a year to fraud and error in the welfare system, the government wants to put more emphasis on people taking “personal responsibility” for their claims. So, from 2012, it plans to deduct at least £50 from benefits if errors were made that “could have reasonably been prevented”.
“[The] £50 rate was determined as an appropriate starting point for the majority of benefit customers to encourage better care of their claim, with the option of increasing the civil penalty to up to £300,” the proposals found.
These fines, which will be paid in addition to refunding any overpayments, will total £9m in 2012-13, the government predicts.
This will increase to £30.5m in 2014-15, which is the equivalent of fines at £50 for 610,000 people. The proposals also reveal that the government assumes there will be very few appeals against these fines.
– BBC News
And given that the rate of errors made by DWP staff is inevitably higher than that made by claimants, I look forward to being able to dock £50 from their pay for any screw ups. Why do I suspect that the error rate will be subsumed into that of fraud from herein?