Belfast Telegraph

Tough new penalties for Northern Ireland benefit fraudsters

By Lisa Smyth

A tough zero-tolerance stance which will axe payments to Northern Ireland benefit fraudsters has been put in place.

In 2010/11, fraudulent benefit claims in Northern Ireland totalled almost £5m - equating to an average of £4,417 paid out to 1,128 people who did not need the financial support.

The new penalty will cut a claimant's benefit - or stop it entirely - for four weeks after a person is found to have committed their first benefit fraud offence.

Previously, claimants were only penalised after two offences.

The move could see more than 1,000 fraudsters penalised a year - a significant increase on the 'two strike' action which saw just 13 people have their benefits cut last year.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said: "Those who deliberately commit benefit fraud are dipping their fingers into the pockets of Northern Ireland's taxpayers. This is unacceptable.

"The new one-strike penalty will increase significantly the numbers of people whose benefit is cut due to an abuse of the benefit system."

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