Rotherham Council warns benefit cheats

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There will be no hiding for benefit cheats this autumn as Rotherham Council takes part in a national exercise.

The National Fraud Initiative is run once every two years by the Audit Commission and requires local authorities, police and fire organisations, to share different sets of information and data.

Rotherham Council is required to provide housing rents data along with housing benefit claimants, payroll, student loans and pension payroll.

The data is then cross-matched to identify possible incidences of fraud or overpayment. Cases can include tenants with council properties in two different authorities or a public sector employee claiming housing benefit but failing to declare an income that would prevent or reduce entitlement to benefits.

Coun Jahangir Akhtar, deputy leader of Rotherham Council, welcomed the initiative.

He said: “Although we are obliged to take part in this scheme it is well worthwhile because such schemes do have a positive effect on benefit fraudsters.

“Since the initiative began in 1996, the programme has helped identify a massive £939 million in fraud or error and as a result the initiative has attracted international recognition.

“More importantly it means that more money is going to the people who really need it.”

The collection and submission of data will happen in October, with the processing and matching of information taking place during November and December. Local authorities will receive the results and any data matches in January.

The last National Fraud Initiative in 2010/11 helped trace almost £229 million in fraud, error and overpayments in England.