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Cabinet Office reveals ‘disappointing’ decrease in tackling social housing fraud

The number of social housing properties recovered from ineligible tenants is declining, the Cabinet Office has warned in the 2016 National Fraud Initiative (NFI) report.

The report said that there had been a “disappointing” 37% decrease in the number of social properties recovered from those in unlawful occupation through the NFI scheme.

NFI data matching led to 54 properties being recovered in the past year, down from 86 the year before.

The report added that this “continued to be a trend”, with the number of properties declining since 2010-11, when 235 properties were recovered.

The European Institute for Combatting Corruption and Fraud (TEICAFF) also found a 1.2% decrease in the number of social homes recovered from tenancy fraudsters in 2014-15 in the UK, with London councils recovering 10.5% fewer.

Social housing fraud is when a tenancy is gained by deception, gained by someone with the wrong immigration status, or sublet unlawfully.

In 2013, the National Fraud Authority said that social housing fraud was the second biggest cause of fraud to local authorities, costing them £845m a year.

To help tackle the problem, social housing fraud was made a criminal offence under the Protection of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

In the most recent reporting period, there were two prosecutions over social housing fraud, including one tenant who provided false immigration papers to secure a tenancy and claimed £28,000 in housing and council tax benefit using a fake passport.

Fraud also contributes to the shortage in social housing, with 1.2 million households currently on the waiting list. The Cabinet Office said it would work with housing providers, including housing associations, to understand why the problem was so large.

It also plans to work with councils, in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions, to agree the arrangements for effective follow-up of housing benefit fraud identified through NFI matching, and work with local authorities and the DCLG to maximise the benefits of NFI data.

The Cabinet Office noted that it would begin a consultation on an NFI strategy for 2016-20, including a review of immigration fraud and right to buy fraud.

Councils only reported stopping four right to buy sales because of concerns that the applicant had provided false information, as opposed to 21 in the previous reporting period, despite government efforts to increase the number of right to buy sales. The latest report said it wasn’t clear if this was due to a decline in fraud, or was because the NFI was not currently effective at identifying fraud.

(Image c. Lynne Cameron from PA Wire)

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Truthsayer   08/11/2016 at 16:23

The Fraud Act 2006 criminalised most social tenancy abuses, and fraud in trying to fraudulently acquire a social tenancy. POSHFA plugged a gap in criminal offences, and also added very helpful statutory powers. The NFI is a datamatch exercise that spots obvious discrepancies like a council tenant holding a different address on another public body's systems; most fraudsters are wise enough to avoid that sort of thing. Thus it is helpful, but of limited practical use.

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