The Treasury has today announced that it is taking further action to tackle the growing problem of benefit fraud in the Isle of Man.
Another two full-time inspectors will be appointed to support efforts to prevent benefit cheats claiming taxpayers money they are not entitled to.
Through its Social Security Division, Treasury expects to spend more than £276million on state benefits and pensions in the current financial year. A record level of benefit fraud was identified during 2015-16 and the Treasury crackdown is aimed at protecting genuine claimants as well as the public purse.
Evidence shows that benefit fraud is becoming increasingly prevalent in the Island. In the last financial year, benefit overpayments arising from identified fraud amounted to more than £700,000. An estimated £400,000 in further overpayments was avoided through the intervention of the benefit inspectorate. These figures are the highest since records began.
In the past 12 months, a total of 14 benefit fraud offenders have been prosecuted in the criminal courts, with eight receiving custodial sentences. A further 13 people received official cautions, while warning letters were sent to six others.
Bill Henderson MLC, political member of the Treasury with responsibility for Social Security, said:
‘Benefit fraud is a criminal offence. The Treasury takes a very dim view of customers making fraudulent benefit claims and where appropriate will prosecute offenders. As well as a fine or custodial sentence, offenders also have to pay back the money they have effectively stolen from the taxpayer and may face sanctions against any further benefit claims they make.’
‘Benefit fraud is morally reprehensible. It takes away money which could otherwise be used to support deserving causes. We will do everything within our power to identify offenders and bring them to justice. The appointment of two more inspectors will enable the Treasury to take a more proactive approach to benefit fraud investigation and leave offenders with no place to hide. My strong advice to anyone who may be considering making a fraudulent benefit claim is don’t do it. It is not a soft or victimless crime and at the end of the day you could end up with a criminal record, and even a term in prison, and still have to pay the money back.’
Mr Henderson concluded:
‘If anyone knows of a person who they feel is committing benefit fraud I would strongly encourage them to contact our benefit fraud hotline on 0808 1624043. Calls to this number are free and you don’t have to give your name. Alternatively, you can email the inspectorate at firstname.lastname@example.org.’