DWP to check bank statements of millions of Universal Credit claimants

File picture of two people using cashpoints outside a Lloyds Bank branch in Birmingham as a woman walks past
-Credit: (Image: newsteam.co.uk)


The Department for Work and Pensions is planning to check the bank statements of millions of Universal Credit claimants. It is carrying out what it calls targeted case reviews to help reduce fraud and error in the system.

In a new update, the DWP says it has recruited 2,000 targeted case review agents to review Universal Credit claims, along with 1,400 new counter-fraud professionals. It plans to boost the case reviews taskforce to 6,000 and says "millions" of Universal Credit claims will be checked over the next four years.

Latest figures from April 2024 show 6.67 million people are claiming Universal Credit across the UK. This includes almost 184,000 in Birmingham - the highest number of any local authority area - of which 53,000 are working and 131,000 are economically inactive. The Birmingham figures include high numbers of 29,784 claimants in Ladywood, 25,816 in Hodge Hill and just over 20,000 apiece in Yardley, Perry Barr and Erdington.

The process of reviewing claims involves asking people to show ID and hand over four months of bank statements. They will also have to produce documentation to prove their housing costs, earnings, savings, self-employment, children, childcare costs, health conditions, student finance, and caring responsibilities. A phone interview is also conducted and failure to attend can result in benefit payments being stopped.

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The DWP says it has already reviewed hundreds of thousands of claims this year and found irregularities in around a quarter of them that needed to be rectified. It explained: "This year we have reviewed over 200,000 claims, finding and putting right incorrect declarations on almost 50,000 claims, and stopping individuals from building up debts. This has included finding unreported capital of over £16,000, wrongly declared self-employment expenses, and undisclosed second homes.

"This demonstrates the vital role Targeted Case Reviews are playing in addressing unreported changes in circumstances, reminding customers of their commitment to keep us updated on changes to their circumstances to help them avoid unnecessary debt, and catching those trying to take advantage of the welfare system."

It says safeguards are in place to support claimants and spot signs of vulnerabilities and complex needs that can impact a person's ability to manage their claim, declare changes and report up-to-date information on their circumstances that could affect how much they are entitled to receive.

The DWP said: "We are tripling the size of our teams reviewing millions of Universal Credit claims for possible fraud, or error and we estimate this will save £6.6 billion alone by 2027/28." In all, the Department is planning to save £9 billion by that date in a wide-ranging crackdown on fraud in the welfare system.

It added: "we are making progress in our fight against fraud. In 2022/23, we cut fraud and error in the welfare system by 10 per cent - reducing the rate of fraud and error as a proportion of benefit expenditure from 4 per cent to 3.6 per cent – and we also saved the taxpayer £1.1 billion from our dedicated counter-fraud activities. When combined with our controls, we estimate that our controls and activities have prevented nearly £18 billion of losses in 2022/23.

"The Department went on to set a target to save £1.3 billion in 2023/24 and initial savings estimates for 2023/24 indicate we have exceeded that target, saving £1.35 billion thanks to our counter-fraud activities. However, since the pandemic, over £8 billion a year has been overpaid because of fraud and error. This is money that could have been used for other public services such as schools or hospitals or reducing the national debt."

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