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Single person discount fraud costing councils £16m a year, research finds

False claims for Single Person Discount cost local authorities nearly £16m a year in 1017/18 and is the third most prevalent type of fraudulent activity carried out by British adults, research by not-for-profit fraud prevention service Cifas has found.

The research, carried out in conjunction with WPI Economics, also showed that adults in London were twice as likely to see falsely claiming the discount on council tax as reasonable (14%), as opposed to respondents in the East Midlands, West Midlands, or South East (7% in each).

Cifas has been running a ‘Faces of Fraud’ campaign, “which aims to challenge those seemingly harmless behaviours that are in fact, illegal”.

It highlighted Harrow Council’s collaboration with Datatank to identify fraudulent and erroneous applications for Single Person Discount, which had helped the authority save an estimated £3.6m in revenue. Harrow Council now has the lowest incidence of Single Person Discount, Cifas said.

The organisation said unlawful subletting also remained a key issue for local authorities. According to its Fraud and Corruption Tracker Summary Report 2018, local authorities estimate that more than £216m of housing fraud occurred in the 2017/18 financial year, and this included fraud on right to buy and unlawful subletting.

Mike Haley, Chief Executive Officer of Cifas, said: “Unlawful subletting and fraudulent housing claims put huge financial pressure on local authorities and, more importantly, it means that families are missing out on the opportunity of a much-needed home.

“The consequences of this type of fraud are very serious indeed, and could result in a criminal conviction and a prison sentence. I would urge anyone thinking of falsely claiming housing benefit to consider the real impact this can have on their future as well as that of the community at large.”

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