Fine Gael TD and Minister for Protection Leo Varadkar launching his Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign last week
You may recall the launch of Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All campaign.
And Mr Varadkar saying that “a range of anti-fraud and control measures in the Department of Social Protection saved taxpayers more than €500million” in 2016.
And Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Bróin questioning Mr Varadkar’s figure of €500million in last weekend’s Sunday Business Post.
After going through Department of Social Protection’s Fraud and Error Surveys, annual Comptroller and Auditor General reports and parliamentary questions, Mr O’Bróin claimed that the number of welfare overpayments, due to errors by claimants or department staff, are much more significant than fraudulent welfare claims and that the errors cost more than the fraudulent claims.
Further to this…
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Social Protection John Brady has released a statement, saying:
“Last week, Minister Varadkar launched a ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ advertising and online campaign set to cost the taxpayer €204,000. Initially, the department was unable to provide the total cost of this campaign but they have since advised me of this figure.
“The Department of Social Protection have claimed that they achieved overall savings of €506 million in 2016 as a result of ‘control and anti-fraud measures’. However, the actual calculation of this figure leaves more questions than answers. In fact, in the Department’s own words, it is based on nothing more than an assumption. The real figure from Department officials, received by the media today, stands at €41 million.
“The Department developed a bizarre method of calculation using multipliers where they assume that an excess payment would have continued to be paid for a set future period and therefore, they multiply the payment by an assumed length of time. In the case of Carer’s Allowance and Disability Allowance, the payment is multiplied by 136.
“When we look at the figures from past reviews undertaken by the Department, it clearly shows that the real issue to be tackled is the prevalence of over-payments rather than fraud. This is reflected in a number of previous Controller and Auditor General Reports which showed that between 2007 and 2011, 50% of all overpayments were due to error while 38% of overpayments were due to fraud.
Previously: Populist Chancer Cheats Us All
Assistant Secretary Department of Social Protection Kathleen Stack and the Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar at the launch of the ‘Welfare Cheats Cheat Us All’ campaign.
The Department of Social Protection press office responded this evening.
In a statement it said:
“‘The ‘Welfare Cheats – Cheat Us All‘ campaign, launched last week, aims to:
Raise awareness and challenge the culture around how Social Welfare Fraud is perceived –it is not a victimless crime;
Encourage the reporting of suspected fraud to the Department of Social Protection-anonymously via phone/or online; and
Demonstrate the considerable control reviews and investigations activity by the Department of Social Protection
In 2016, the Department achieved overall savings of €506m as a result of control and anti-fraud measures. This reflects the 950,000 reviews of individual claims undertaken by the Department last year to determine on-going entitlements.
These savings are an estimate of the value of the various control activities (entitlement reviews and inspections) undertaken across the Department’s various schemes.
The €506m in control savings does not include any cases where the customer voluntarily told the Department of changes in their means or circumstances which resulted in a reduction in the rate of payment or termination of their claim.
The overall control and anti-fraud savings figure is – and always has been – based on the assumption that, had the excess payment not been detected as a result of our control work, it would have continued for at least a set future period.
The €506m figure, therefore, represents the value of future social welfare expenditure which was avoided, owing to proactive investigations and reviews.”
Minister Leo Varadkar added:
‘The Department raised €110m in overpayments last year of which €41m related to customer fraud. Over €82m was actually recovered last year. These are the amounts detected and recovered and represent a figure that must be below the actual level of fraud given the volume that goes undetected or cannot be recovered.
Arguing about the exact amount, the difference between control, fraud and error misses one undeniable fact – millions is defrauded from the taxpayer through the social welfare system. It’s a crime and cracking down on it frees up much needed resources to expand entitlements or return to taxpayers.”