The Government is getting tougher on benefit cheats with new measures to ensure that fraudsters will not get away with ‘a mere slap on the wrist.’
Previously, some benefit fraudsters could get away with paying only a £15 penalty. The maximum penalty was £600.
Now benefit cheats can be fined without even being taken to court. The fines will start at a minimum of £350 and rise to 50% of the benefit overpayment until it reaches the maximum fine of £2,000.
There will also be a £50 fine for people who negligently give incorrect information on their claim or fail to report a change in circumstances which results in an overpayment.
The new system is expected to save the taxpayer £42m over the next three years. Whereas before it was possible to get away with a caution, now all fraudsters will face penalties.
Legitimate benefits could be taken away
Not only will benefit cheats have to pay their fines, they also face the prospects of having their legitimate benefits taken away. If they are convicted they will lose their benefits for 13 weeks for a first offence, 26 weeks for a second offence and three years for a third offence.
Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud said: “We always push for the strongest possible punishment for benefit thieves who are stealing money from the people who need it the most.
“When it makes financial sense to do so, we will prosecute through the courts but where very little or no money has been stolen we will fine people as well as recover any overpayment, hitting fraudsters where it hurts the most.
“We are getting tougher and no one will escape justice with a mere slap on the wrists.”