Benefit fraud tops £1million in Swansea, say investigators
BENEFIT claimants in Swansea fraudulently claimed more than £1million last year, investigators have said.
The council’s benefits investigation team, in conjunction with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) colleagues based in Morriston, uncovered overpayments of £1,117,976 between April 2012 and March 2013. This sum would pay for 45 teachers on a £25,000 annual salary.
More than 163 people were punished for benefit fraud with prison sentences, community service orders, formal cautions or fines and face repaying their illegally obtained benefits.
Many of the successful prosecutions were reported by the Evening Post.
A further 77 people have been punished since April this year, while 156 “live” cases are underway.
Most of these figures are contained in a council report which is up for discussion by members of the audit committee on Thursday.
The Swansea investigators were praised in the report for their success rate which, despite being lower than the previous four years, was achieved with fewer resources. The team has six investigations officers, one of whom was tied up with an operation involving the DWP and South Wales Police.
In addition, one of three assistant benefits officers left her post and has not been replaced. Another one had 66 days off sick, while one of the investigation officers had 38 days off sick.
Local authorities administer housing benefit and council tax benefit, while jobseeker’s allowance and incapacity benefit, among others, are managed by Westminster.
Benefit claimants must disclose change of circumstances.
Among those sentenced for benefit fraud last year was Thomas Bray, who pleaded guilty to unlawfully claiming £62,230. Bray, of Montpelier Terrace, Mount Pleasant - aged 55 at the time of sentencing - said he was a single man when in fact he was living his partner of 13 years. He was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.
Joleen Amanda Davies, 29, of Woodview Place, Portmead, was rumbled when her “happily married” Facebook status sat awkwardly with her claim that was a single mum. The court heard she lived with her husband Paul Davies, but also that she had begun paying back the £4,000 to which she was not entitled. She was fined £100 and told to pay £115 in costs.
Council investigations manager Tal Davies said: “We are pleased our work is getting results and will continue to find all those who steal benefits.”