Social Security Policy And Guidance

Many LAs follow the DWP’s enforcement policy but they are not bound by it. LA officers acting as service providers for the Secretary of State and authorised under Section109A of the SSAA 1992 in SFIS pilots apply the DWP enforcement policy. The detection, prevention and punishment of benefit fraud is central to Government policy in tackling welfare payment fraud.

Evidence of hours/pay exceeding this self-imposed limit will often rebut this point, so will evidence demonstrating what was explained to the claimant. The courts can, however, take the notional calculation into account for the purpose of mitigation. In the former, Mr Justice Forbes stated, “There was the question of the Tax Credits to which she was entitled. We agree with Mr Cooke’s submission that the judge appears to have treated that consideration as irrelevant. In our judgment, it was a relevant consideration for the purposes of mitigation”.

In failure to report changes of circumstances offences the prosecution must prove that the benefit claimant was aware of the person to whom and the manner in which the notification of the change of circumstance must be made (see Coventry City Council v Vassell EWHC 1542 ). Knowledge does not, however, include constructive knowledge, i.e. the defendant ought to have known or neglected to make inquiries as a reasonable and prudent person would. In Flintshire CC v Reynolds EWCH 195 it was alleged that Mrs Reynolds had knowingly produced information she knew to be false in a material particular for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or other payment or advantage. Mrs Reynolds’ evidence was that she signed the form completed by her husband without reading it. It was held that constructive knowledge is not enough to demonstrate that something has been done knowingly in the context of a criminal statute.

Advocates should note that compensation payments must be made payable to the DWP in DWP investigated cases and not to the CPS. Payments paid incorrectly to the CPS will result in an accounting error requiring rectification procedures. CPS policy on costs applications for convicted defendants applies to all cases and prosecutors should apply for prosecution costs in accordance with the CPS scales. All witness care is arranged by DWP FES investigators in conjunction with prosecutors.

Referral to the CPS to consider prosecution is reserved for the more serious cases. CPS prosecutors take appropriate account of DWP enforcement policy when applying the Public Interest Test. The CPS took on the prosecution of DWP criminal investigations in 2012, and until the restructure of fraud work in July 2018, these cases were handled exclusively by the Specialist Fraud Division .

Those who accept administrative penalties, cautions or who are convicted of benefit offences may be subject to “the loss of benefit rules”. Where the rules apply, the claimant may have their benefit payment reduced wholly or in part for a number of weeks. In a Section 112 offence the evidence is not sufficient until it also proves that the document or information was false in a material particular.