No, no, there\’s no benefit cheats anywhere

For two years, Shashi Bacheta and her partner sailed halfway round the world on their 70ft yacht, sun-kissed and living the lives of millionaires.

Able to indulge in her passion for scuba diving, Bacheta and Jeffrey Coles occasionally docked their £100,000 yacht the Kismet, drawing admiring glances from passers-by and hooking up with fellow travellers.

What the onlookers did not know, however, was that the couple were funding their trip by illegally claiming more than £50,000 in Government benefits.

OK, now we\’ve shown that there are indede some, we would like to work out how many.

If it\’s 0.01% of what is paid out then there\’s really not much more to be done. That sort of error rate is pretty good in fact. But what if it\’s 10%? Or 30%? I have no idea what the real estimates are….anyone want to have a try enlightening us?

17 thoughts on “No, no, there\’s no benefit cheats anywhere”

  1. A piffling £800m? A mere bagatelle, sir! Gordon McTwat has flushed that much down the toilet since breakfast.

    Mind you, £800m here, £800m there, pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

  2. Depends on how you define benefit fraud. The Tories during the 80s moved people from unemployment benefit to higher paying disability benefits to disguise unemployment levels – legal and fraudulent. Today, a lot of people are legally in receipt of benefits but are they justifiable?

  3. Don’t worry – it will all be eliminated by the introduction of ID cards. Or compulsory passports if you’re Blunkett.

  4. I’m not sure how to react to that data. On the one hand, knowing that it’s just 0.6% of total benefit spending suggests that too much attention is given to benefit fraud. But if I found out that managers of PFI projects were embezzling £800m per year, would I be reassured by knowing that’s 0.14% of total govt spending? What difference does the individual scale of the crime make to the moral response? I presume £800m represents a relatively large number of people taking relatively small amounts of money (say 40,000 at £20,000 each) – is that better or worse than 400 people stealing £2m each?

  5. Sorry, this was just wrong of me: “knowing that it’s just 0.6% of total benefit spending suggests that too much attention is given to benefit fraud” – perhaps it is all the attention paid to fraud that prevents it fraud from being much greater

  6. “A year ago, the National Audit Office estimated that….”: was that the outfit run by the extravagant sod who spent heaps of our money on treats for himself and his wife? If so, why should I believe a word that his outfit says? He clearly – if it was him – didn’t know the meaning of propriety.

  7. “What difference does the individual scale of the crime make to the moral response?”

    The moral response, none. But the actual response should be tempered according to cost/benefit. Hence if it costs 2 billion pounds to implement ID cards to ‘fix’ this issue, which would save 800 million, that would be _stupid_. Hence that’s exactly what Labour plan to do.

  8. If so, why should I believe a word that his outfit says?

    Daft fallacy: if someone has lavish tastes in entertainment, that doesn’t disqualify them from saying whether a round of tendering was value for money.

    If it did, companies would be automatically barred from ever hiring a consulting firm to review their procurement strategies…

  9. john b – as so often, you miss the point. Presumably wilfully. If the thieving fucker – if it was he – is a thieving fucker, there’s no reason to believe him. See – clear enough for you?

  10. I suspect the figure ill be much, much higher, maybe 14%. Here’s why: if you are unskilled and living on benefits there are 3 ways you can increase your standard of living:

    1) get a job. In order to make significantly more than benefits it will have to be a good paying job, a lot more than minimum wage. This is probably not an option of you are unskilled or poorly educated. If you take a minimum wage job, you’ll lose 85% of your new income in benefits withdrawal.

    2) you could go in for real crime: burglary, drug dealing, stealing cars etc.. Returns on that are actually pretty low (stolen goods fetch a very small percentage of their value – OK for a drug hit, but not for living on) and the risks, if caught, could be high, plus you may get involved with other criminals who have a far better method of dealing with you moving into their turf than the cops do.

    3) you could get into benefit fraud. Take in a lodger, don’t declare him. Move in with your boyfriend and sublet the council flat. Get a cash in hand job (at less than min wage) and don’t declare it, etc.. Much better returns than real crime and very low rates of detection, with small punishments.

    There are 3000 benefit fraud investigators in the whole country and 7 million people getting benefit of one kind or another. You now the chances of getting caught and punished are very small.

    How to fix it – let people keep more of their legally earned money.

  11. markasany:

    What you propose is better than what exists presently. But not nearly as good as eliminating
    “unemployment benefit” itself entirely.

    I know it sound draconian but the very fact that there’s such a thing as an “unemployment benefit” virtually guarantees there will be more unemployment than otherwise. If folks want a bit of breathing space after losing a job, that’s no problem: they can just save up a bit at a time until they’ve got the amount they feel necessary; no biggie.

    And, of course, as you suggest, the worker would receive such augmentation in take-home pay as now goes to fund his “contribution” to the fund from which the dole is paid plus another representing the cost of administration of the whole shebang, as those latter join the labor pool available to perform jobs producing
    goods and services that people actually want (rather than those for which they’re forced to pay whether wanted or used or not).

  12. There is a general perception that incapacity benefit is just a massive scam, to keep the long-term unemployed in the same standard of living as many of the working stiffs who fund them. That area is probably where the vast bulk of the real benefit fraud is going on. One local schoolteacher told me there is a natural progression of able bodied youngsters leaving school with no qualifications, and winding up on incapacity benefit within a couple of years. In truth they are unemployable, a situation which they find quite satisfactory.

    But the real cost of benefit fraud lies in the damage done to the social contract between taxpayers and government. People know. And that is toxic.

  13. Monty:

    Yes. there was a piece Tim put up recently indicating many on “unemployment” shifting over to “disability” rolls. I remember it was because the former is time-limited and the latter not.

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