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Saturday, January 19, 2008

A question of competence

Everybody has had a lot of fun over Gordon Brown's judgement that Peter Hain was 'incompetent' over his failure to register more than £100,000 of donations to his failed deputy leadership campaign, however this morning's Guardian reports on failures on a bigger and far more serious scale.

They tell us that a National Audit Office report to be published next week will say that the Department of Work and Pensions has failed to tackle benefit fraud and errors which are costing taxpayers more than £2.5bn a year.

The report looks at the effectiveness of the ministry's anti-fraud advertising, investigation procedures, data matching with national insurance contributions, national benefit fraud hotline, and prosecutions.

It will highlight the failure to recover millions of pounds from claimants who have fraudulently got benefits or have been paid too much money by mistake. The one glimmer of hope is that recorded fraud appears to be beginning to drop.

In the normal cause of events such a report would be news for a few days before being buried in a Public Accounts Committee investigation. However coming on top of the Secretary of State's current troubles it has turned into yet another stick to beat him with in the hope of forcing his resignation.
The whole benefits system is a confusing myriad of regulations and procedure at the moment. Me and my partner have a newborn baby and are still not fully aware of what we are and are not entitled to.

Also when filling out forms there is so little consistency - housing benefit count my student loan as income whereas child tax credits don't, tax credits count towards income for housing benefit but housing benefit doesn't count towards income for tax credits, some things count pension contributions as income some things don't etc.

It's such a headache for me that I dread to think what those working for the DWP must be going through.

A Swansea Blog
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