New DWP taskforce and Liverpool’s ‘social networking’ investigation scheme

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is launching a new taskforce of benefit fraud investigators, in a bid to cut down on the number of fraudulent claims from couples who falsely declare they are living apart.

Under the new scheme, benefit fraud investigators will be interviewing every claimant in postcode areas that are thought to be ‘high-risk’. The DWP hope to save £100m with the new initiative, with the ultimate aim of reducing the annual welfare fraud and error bill by one quarter – or £1.4billion – by March 2015.

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform, said: “The new taskforce is our latest weapon in tackling welfare fraud on the front line”, whilst David Gauke, a Conservative junior Treasury minister, said that the new taskforce “delivers on our commitment to tackle benefit fraud and together with the extra £917million we have reinvested in HMRC sends a very clear message.”

Benefit fraud investigators in Liverpool are to ‘go undercover’ on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to capture information on suspected fraudulent claims, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Such social networking sites are a “priceless” source of evidence for benefit fraud solicitors and investigators, according to a recent report commissioned by the Liverpool city council.

However, the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner has advised that if ‘undercover’ investigators are to engage in any contact other than asking to be a friend in order to see what people are posting, the new scheme may need permission under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA) act.