Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Welfare fraud bank checks proposed

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton says the Government has collected 645 million euro in a welfare fraud crackdown

Suspected welfare fraudsters could have their bank accounts inspected under tough new powers being brought in to clamp down on benefit cheats.

Department of Social Protection investigators will be given fraud squad-style rights to trawl through the finances of people accused of making irregular claims.

A crackdown on 982,000 individual benefit claims saved 645 million euro last year, the Government revealed.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said: "Where there is fraud the decision to prosecute is ultimately a matter for the gardai and the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), and obviously the trail of evidence has to be satisfactory."

A proposed Bill will be brought before the Dail in the next few weeks.

The Government is also pushing ahead with the roll-out of a social welfare identification card to try to increase the number of prosecutions.

The department's fraud review for 2011 showed 167 million euro was saved from irregular One Parent Family payments to 103,562 claimants and pension savings of almost 142 million euro were made from 13,871 people;

More than 92 million euro was saved through illness payments from 191,640 cases and savings in job seekers' claims worth more than 82 million euro were made, with more than 222,000 claims reviewed.

About 88 million euro was saved out of 392,000 child benefit payment claims.

Meanwhile 222 cases were dealt with in the court, with seven people jailed; another 134 had fines imposed, 28 got probation, 18 got a suspended sentence and 16 community service.

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