Millions of DWP Universal Credit claimants to have bank statements checked - here's why

The DWP is cracking down on Universal Credit fraud
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Millions of Universal Credit claimants are set to have their bank statements checked in an effort to reduce fraud and error.

The Department for Work and Pensions is carrying out 'targeted case reviews' to help cut down on fraud and error in the benefits system. In a new update, the DWP says it has recruited 2,000 targeted case review agents to look at 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.

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, reports BirminghamLive.

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.