Saturday, July 22, 2006

Benefit Fraud International

Since well before the Poor Law, fraud has been a major problem with all benefit systems. State handouts are a honeypot not just for those undeserving poor, but increasingly, for organised criminal gangs.

Here in the UK, we spend around £150 bn pa on "Social Protection", and according to the National Audit Office, 2.3% of that is lost to fraud and error. But the average includes state pensions, where fraud is low because it's difficult to lie about your age. Within the more discretionary benefits, fraud is much higher: 5% or more for Housing Benefit, Income Support, and Pension Credits, for example.

A new report from the NAO looks at the prevalence of benefit fraud around the world. Among the countries examined, Ireland tops the chart, with 7% of all benefits lost. But even in hard-hearted America, fraud in income support programmes is put at 5%.

More surprising is that some of the really big spending governments do not monitor fraud at all, France and Sweden being prime examples. How long before their taxpayers wake up?

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