Feeds

DWP embarrassed by prisoner overpayments

Taxpayers fork out £13m to ineligible inmates

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The management of the benefits system has come under more pressure with the revelation that prisoners have been receiving millions of pounds in payments to which they are not entitled.

The taxpayer has handed out £13m of income support and Jobseeker's Allowance over the past three years, despite inmates not being eligible.

Figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show the total payout in 2004-05 was £7m - more than three times the amount recorded in 2002-3. More money could have been mistakenly issued through other benefits, but ministers have admitted they are currently unable to provide estimates.

Shadow secretary of state for work and pensions Philip Hammond, who tabled parliamentary questions to obtain the figures, said: "This is more evidence of Labour's bungled administration of our benefits system.

"It is shocking that prisoners are wrongly receiving benefit handouts at the British taxpayer's expense, when so many vulnerable families and pensioners are experiencing real hardship.

"We need a full and urgent account of how and why prisoners are being paid these benefits, a proper explanation of exactly how many have received them, and an account of what efforts have been made to get the money back."

Prisoners are not entitled to claim Jobseeker's Allowance - worth up to £57.45 a week - because they are not available to work while locked up. They are also ineligible for income support and pension credits, and generally cannot receive incapacity and disability benefits, the state pension, carer's allowance, industrial injuries benefit or maternity allowance.

Help with housing costs is only given to those on remand awaiting trial.

Pensions minister James Plaskitt admitted in his written reply that the government did not know how much had been wrongly issued in incapacity benefit, council tax benefit, or housing benefit. He added that there were "no estimates available" for how many prisoners had received money.

Most of the payments are thought to be the result of prisoners not informing the authorities that their circumstances have changed. There are currently no arrangements for the Prison Service to inform the DWP of when someone who may be a benefits claimant has been incarcerated.

A DWP spokeswoman said the figures were "estimates" based on small samples which had a "wide margin for error".

The spokesperson said the government had only started producing the data in 2002-03, and it was not yet possible to calculate mistaken payments of other benefits.

"We are determined to crack down on anyone who defrauds the benefit system. The idea that we are in any way complacent about this is just wrong. We are the first people to start counting it."

The spokesperson added that handouts to prisoners made up a very small proportion of overall benefit fraud - which has been falling.

In 2004-05 income support and Job Seeker's Allowance fraud was estimated at £290m, from an overall benefits spend of £110bn.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
HBO shocks US pay TV world: We're down with OTT. Netflix says, 'Gee'
This affects every broadcaster, every cable guy
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
French 'terror law' declares WAR on the INTERNET itself, say digi-rights folks
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité: Two out of three ain't bad
SCREW YOU, EU: BBC rolls out Right To Remember as Google deletes links
Not even Google can withstand the power of Auntie
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.