‘Welfare cheats cheat us all’: New campaign wants public to blow the whistle on welfare fraud

It’s estimated that last year suspected fraud overpayments of Jobseeker’s Allowance cost €14 million.

Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

A NEW HARD-HITTING campaign is being launched to encourage members of the public to blow the whistle on welfare fraud.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar will launch the new advertising campaign this afternoon.

The adverts are designed to confront people with the reality of welfare fraud and aim to persuade people to report any knowledge they have about specific cases to the Department of Social Protection.

It’s estimated that last year suspected fraud overpayments of Jobseeker’s Allowance cost €14 million.

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Source: Department of Social Protection

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The Department of Social Protection has rolled out new initiatives to tackle welfare fraud such as the introduction of a modern debt management system.

A special investigation unit, consisting of trained inspectors and Garda officers, also operate in the department, tasked to identify more serious breaches.

Varadkar said his department has also deployed identity and analytics software and other intelligence systems to reinforce its fraud prevention work.

“The majority of people in receipt of a payment from the Department of Social Protection receive what they are entitled to be paid. Nevertheless, my department recognises that abuse of the welfare system is an ongoing reality and must be tackled proactively,” said Varadkar when speaking on the issue in January.

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New advert to be used in welfare fraud campaign.

Source: Department of Social Protection

The new advertising campaign asks questions such as: ‘Would you report a welfare cheat?’

The adverts are designed to make people sit up and think about the issue, and take action if they do have information, said a department spokesperson.

The minister said members of the public play an important role in supporting anti-fraud activities, with concerned citizens making 19,000 reports in 2016.

Every year thousands of allegations of welfare fraud are made to the department. Some of these transpire to be genuine cases and result in payments being suspended.

The payments are recovered if the case is genuine and some cases also merit prosecution.

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Source: Department of Social Protection

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Overall, the department conducts around one million claim reviews annually.

Varadkar said the continued roll-out of the Public Services Card, which gives people access a range of public services, has considerably reduced the potential for identity fraud.

The minister said he wants to strengthen the legislative provisions to deter abuse of the social welfare system, including publishing the names of persons who are prosecuted for social welfare fraud

He also aims to apply interest on overpayments resulting from fraud.