Tag Archives: Child Benefit

Grass Up Your Neighbours Say The DWP With Another Boring Benefit Fraud Campaign

dwp-benefit-fraudWith 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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The Mass Middle Class Benefit Fraud That Could Soon Cost Us All A Fortune

benefit-cheatsHMRC have reported that up to 200,000 high earning scroungers could face fines for failing to register Child Benefit payments with the tax office.

The cut to Child Benefit for higher earners was one of the first welfare cuts announced by George Osborne, although it has been one of the last to be implemented.  Osborne demanded that families with an earner over £50,000 a year should have Child Benefits reduced and those earning over £60,000 should be stripped of the benefit completely.

In typically bungled fashion the implementation of this cut has turned out to be a bureaucratic shambles.  As well as penalising parents who choose to stay at home with children – dual income families could earn a combined wage of just up to £100k a year and not be affected by the cut – the DWP, who administer Child Benefit claims, have no record of how much Child Benefit claimants earn.

This means that these families will still receive the weekly payment, but will now have to register with the self-assessment system to declare the cash to HMRC who will then take the money away from them in their tax bill.  Unfortunately HMRC do not necessarily have details of whether tax payers have children, which means if people don’t register then they are unlikely to be discovered.

This is why HMRC chief executive Lin Homer said to BBC Radio 5 Live “We think there is about 200,000 people who need to get off their backsides and do something.”

This is the number of people estimated to have failed to register to pay back Child Benefits on Friday (3rd October), just 24 hour before the deadline.

In truth the situation could be far worse than the tax office is admitting.  Those on over £60 grand a year can simply opt out of Child Benefits, as they stand to lose the lot anyway.  There has been no estimate so far from HMRC on how many people in this group have failed to do so.  Most likely because HMRC don’t know.

Yet this group of benefit fraudsters needn’t worry as they can expect to be treated with kid gloves by the authorities.  Whilst there are penalties for those who are caught still claiming when they are no longer entitled, HMRC say that those who don’t bother to register until long after the deadline will probably not be fined.  They are unlikely to face ten year prison sentences, or be named and shamed on the DWP website.  There have been no posters placed on bus shelters in Chipping Norton encouraging millionaire residents to grass up their neighbours.

If the 200,000 people who have not yet registered fail to do so, then assuming they have on average 2 children, this mass scale benefit fraud could cost over a third of a billion pounds a year.  Astonishingly this is more than is lost due to fraud in the main out of work benefits, and around the total amount lost to fraud in the Housing Benefit system.  And it could be the tip of the iceberg.

It says everything about the character of the ‘aspirational’ middle classes that along with the rich they may soon become the largest group of benefit fraudsters.  Unlike those on out of work benefits, who may do a few hours work and not declare it for a similar sum to child benefits, they don’t need the money.  They just want it. And having lots of money, no matter where it comes from, is increasingly seen as the highest form of moral attainment.  Which is why there is one set of rules for the rich, and another set of quite different and draconian laws for the poor.

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You Can’t Make A Profit Out of Having Babies For Benefits

cheap-buggyThe Tory Party have long had an obsession with the notion that working class women are constantly having babies in order to gain some kind of financial advantage.

Under the last Tory Government this manifested in the accusation that teenage girls were becoming pregnant simply to gain access to a council flat.  With social housing in chronically short supply this argument barely holds water anymore.  Very young single parents are likely to be placed in mother and baby units or hostels – usually sharing a tiny room with their child in an environment closer to an open prison than a home.  Those who are older with children tend to be offered private sector accommodation whilst awaiting a council property which may take years to materialise, if it ever does.

So now the Tories have turned their attention to the pittance paid out in benefits to those with kids, even stooping as low as exploiting the recent tragic deaths in the Philpott case.

There are now likely to be repeated calls for benefits to be limited to two children as hysterical right wing newspapers, along with the Prime Minister, use an exceptional case to smear all low income families.

The truth is that benefit rates for single parents are pitiful and barely meet even the most basic costs of looking after a child.  A single parent unable to find work is paid just £71 a week for themselves plus slightly  over that for their first child –  taking their total income to around £150 a week.  A second child is worth even less however at £696.80 annually in Child Benefit and £2,690 in tax credits, which works out at £3,386 a year or around £65 a week.  From a purely financial perspective, looking after other people’s children is a far better deal.

The cheapest jar of baby food in Tesco is 65p.  100g of oven chips, two fish fingers and a third of a tin of value beans is edging close to a quid.  A pint of milk a day costs up to £3.50 a week. Even a bag of crisps is over 50p these days, whilst a banana can set you back 25p.  Buying the cheapest possible food items and only feeding your kids just about enough to survive it would still be near impossible to keep the cost of food down to less than £25 a week per child.

Of course food bills can be kept low by shopping around at market stalls, soaking dried beans, or trying to force-feed kids lentils everyday.  But at this level of micro-economising then the money you save doing one thing often means a cost somewhere else.  Is it worth a bus fare to the market, or even the cost of gas to cook from fresh?  These are the kind of questions that low income parents spend half their lives obsessing about.

Supermarket value nappies are an example of this.  Tesco do 20 value nappies for just under £2 and baby wipes for around 50p.  But be prepared to literally deal with a lot of shit, along with vicious nappy rash if these are a permanent choice.  And be prepared to buy twice as many.  In truth nappies and wipes are likely to cost at a minimum £8 a week – calculated roughly at the cost of four Tesco own brand nappies day and two packs of wipes a week.

The costs don’t end there.  Whilst there is a small grant available for those on low incomes when they have their first child, there is none for the second.  A cheap buggy from Argos costs around £30-40 quid, but it will probably break after a year.  Even shopping in Primark and charity shops it is difficult to imagine any change from £100 a year at the absolute minimum for clothing costs.  Then add a couple of quid a week for extra laundry costs ( or much more if you don’t have a washing machine), another couple at the very least for increased heating and hot water costs and then another £100 a year for general kid tat such as bottles, sippy cups, blankets and bibs.  And then of course you will need a cot, and then a bed as they get bigger, along with at least some basic furniture, which won’t last if you buy it cheap.

So for just the very basic food, nappies, clothes and equipment that’s around two grand gone.  And all you’ve got so far is a pissed off kid, who’s slightly malnourished, probably cold most of the time, needs their bum changing and has no toys.  You’re going to need a lot of Calpol (over £3 quid a bottle in Boots).

One bus trip a week, to see friends or family, is likely to cost approaching £150 a year.  Even a very sparse Christmas and birthday would take up another £100 annually.  Just one chocolate bar a week adds £30 to the yearly food bill.  Then of course there is the additional amount spent on cleaning products, shampoo, kid’s toothpaste and the endless hidden expenses, from a pack of plasters to a mobile phone to replace the one the little darling just tried to flush down the loo.

And all these costs are for a very young child, who hasn’t even heard of Playstations, funfairs or Cheese Strings yet.  Yet all that’s left after this social services baiting lifestyle, is just a few hundred pounds a year in ‘profit’ – not even enough to pay the bedroom tax.  And it is that few hundred pounds remaining which buys even the most basic quality of life for a young child.  Some colouring books, a birthday cake, an Easter egg, the odd day out, or some decent nutritional food.

It is ludicrous to suggest that anyone would have a baby for the benefits.  And that’s why no-one does.  Just 1% of Child Benefit recipients have five or more children, and many of those will be working families.  Around half of single parents were married when they had their kids.  People’s lives change over time and no-one knows what the future might bring.  Any attempt to punish families economically for having too many children will drive thousands into unbearable poverty for reasons that in most cases were entirely beyond their control.

Sadly there will always be families like the Philpotts.  But no-one can seriously pretend that they are in any way typical of those raising children on benefits.  And it is this that cuts to the heart of the debate on the future of social security as extreme examples are repeatedly used as political cover for legislation which affects millions.  How many thousands of children’s lives is this Government prepared to destroy in a flawed attempt at collective punishment due to a handful of families like the Philpotts?

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