Benefits claimants could have their bank accounts checked on a weekly basis as part of new efforts to cut down on fraud, it has emerged.
Benefit rules mean only people who have £16,000 or less in savings and investments are eligible to claim Universal Credit.
According to the Telegraph, a new system will be implemented to put an onus on banks to run monthly or even weekly data checks to spot red flags that suggest ‘risk’ of fraud.
This could include a claimant’s bank account indicating they have more than £16,000 in savings, or an account that regularly transfers money overseas, the newspaper said.
It would mark a change from the current system which requires the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to have to individually request details of a claimant’s bank account if they suspect fraud is being committed.
An analysis of official figures recently revealed the number of benefit claimants is still 125 per cent higher than before the Covid pandemic in some parts of Britain
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to use his Autumn Statement later this month to unveil the fresh action to ensure claimants are not lying about their savings
The measures are set to be an expansion of Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride’s crackdown on benefit fraud, through his department’s £900million three-year ‘Fighting Fraud’ plan.
The plan has already seen the deployment of trained specialists to review millions of Universal Credit claims.
A Government source said: ‘Every pound stolen by fraudsters could be spent on our public services or on those most in need.
‘Mel sees it as profoundly wrong that benefit cheats aren’t playing by the rules and is determined to bring fairness for the taxpayer.’
There had already been expectations the Autumn Statement would see the Government further efforts to cut down Britain’s welfare bill, including stronger sanctions for claimants who refuse to look for work.
An analysis of official figures recently revealed the number of benefit claimants is still 125 per cent higher than before the Covid pandemic in some parts of Britain.
The number of claimants across the UK soared from around 1.2million in March 2020 to peak at 2.7million in August of that year, partly due to changes in Universal Credit entitlement.
It has since subsided, but the count remains 275,000 higher than pre-Covid – even though the unemployment rate has recovered to early 2020 levels.
Many of those claiming benefits will have jobs, as Universal Credit tops up incomes for those on lower pay.
DWP said they would not comment on speculation about the Autumn Statement.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are already cracking down on those who try to exploit the welfare system in a push to save the taxpayer £1.3bn in the next year.
‘We are ramping up our plans to root out fraud through our Fighting Fraud plan which will bolster the counter-fraud frontline significantly by deploying trained specialists to review millions of Universal Credit claims, among other measures.’
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