During the epidemic, fraud and overpayments in the benefits system reached new highs.
Figures show that fraud and error overpayments in the welfare system reached new highs last year. It was claimed that false Universal Credit claims made during the outbreak aided in pushing levels to a new high.
In 2020-21, the Department for Work and Pensions predicts that it overpaid £8.3 billion out of £111.4 billion in non-state pension payments, an increase of £3.8 billion from 2019-20. According to the National Audit Office, this is the highest rate since records began in 2005.
The epidemic, according to the NAO, was the main source of the rise, as safeguards were eased to allow a record number of new Universal Credit claims to be processed and paid on time.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) calculated that it had overpaid £5.5 billion in Universal Credit.
“I am worried that the amount of fraud and error in the benefits system continues to rise year on year, currently reaching its highest level since records began,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO.
“This has a significant impact on public money as well as people who suffer income deductions as a result of overpayments. I understand that the pandemic and the consequent rise of applicants raised the DWP’s risk of fraud and error.
“It must now evaluate all cases that may have been subject to fraud during this time, while also pursuing our previous recommendations on how to reduce fraud and error,” says the report.
The number of persons claiming Universal Credit doubled from three million to six million as a result of an increase in new claims at the start of the pandemic.
According to the NAO, many new claimants had more sophisticated claims that were more open to fraud.
The DWP loosened some criteria to process the rise of claimants on time in order to respond promptly to the epidemic, according to the NAO.
During the pandemic, the DWP discovered various criminal operations, with fraudsters targeting Universal Credit and filing claims in other people’s names.
Overpayments of £5 billion are owing to the department, putting further burden on its resources and perhaps causing uncertainty and suffering for claimants, according to the report.
Due to the ongoing difficulties, an estimated 132,000 retirees have been getting less state pension than they are entitled to.