With the amount of money lost to fraud and error in the benefit system reaching record highs under this Government, the DWP has issued a call for people to grass up their nieghbours if they suspect them of low level benefit fraud, or even going on holiday.
The latest boringly predictable campaign is not aimed at high level organised fraud, such as people setting up fake identities to claim benefits. Neither is it aimed at landlords picking up Housing Benefit cheques long after tenants have departed, or exploitative employers paying cash to cut down on their National Insurance bill – or even dodge the minimum wage. It is not just a fraction of a parcentage of claimants who benefit from working cash in hand, but often the latte slurping middle classes who are quite happy to look the other way if it gets them a cheap builder.
Instead this campaign is aimed at struggling single parents who might have a partner staying a few times or week, or sick or disabled people whose condition has improved slightly. Or even people on benefits taking a short break away from home. According to the department a range of “television and radio adverts, posters, letters and Facebook ads ” have been produced warning claimants they face jail for failing to report a change in cirumstances. This new campaign is not about saving money, it is about ensuring claimants lead a life of misery and fear.
At the heart of the new campaign is the Benefit Fraud Hotline. This is the telephone line that people can ring anonymously to stich up their neighbours, ex-partners or anyone else they may have taken a dislike to. Barely any prosecutions result from these calls and the vast majority are simply malicious. There are no consequences for those making false allegations. And there should be. Anyone who rings this hotline for any reason other than to grass up a Tory councillor is a filthy fucking scab who should be shunned by their communities.
The rules on benefit fraud are breath-takingly complex. There is no clear information on when you should declare yourself fit for work and end a claim for sickness or disability benefits. A single parent who has a partner staying a few nights a week may or may not be breaking the law, and might only find out themselves when they are threatened with prosecution for having a shag. If someone on the dole is offered fifty quid to clear someone’s garden they are expected to immediately report that to the Jobcentre – throwing their claim into chaos and ensuring they will barely see a penny for their work. Yet these people, scraping by to survive, are now seen as the worst kind of criminals and splashed across the front pages.
Of course when the well off commit benefit fraud there is no such outrage. HMRC recently sent out letters to 30,000 high earning parents warning them they need to contact them to ensure they aren’t receiving too much child benefit. They were supposed to have done this nearly two years ago. A couple with two children will have scammed around £3000 that they are not entitled so far. But no-one seems to really care.
The difference in language is staggering. Reported in thisismoney.co.uk a Treasury spokesperson said: ‘These letters are simply designed to help taxpayers get their returns right by raising awareness of the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC), and to remind customers who file under self assessment of the importance of including HICBC on their return.”
Compare this to the comments made by the DWP about people who are poor falsely claiming benefits: “At the Department for Work and Pensions we’re determined not to let benefit cheats get away with it. The majority of claimants are honest, so why should everyone else pay the price? We’re using all the resources available to track down cheats and make them face the consequences. … People who are caught deliberately withholding information needed for their benefit claim are benefit cheats. They could face a range of consequences for their actions. For example: … serving a prison sentence”
There really are one set of laws for the poor, and very different laws for the rich.
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