Resort spearheads benefit cheat purge

Mike Barry, operations director at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Credit Union.

Mike Barry, operations director at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Credit Union.

Blackpool will spearhead a crackdown on benefit fraud today as part of a Government campaign.

The resort will be targeted by the scheme as residents are urged by the Department of Work and Pensions to report suspected benefit fraud or changes to their circumstances.

The aim is to encourage claimants to tell authorities about changes that might affect their benefits – like getting a job or moving in with a partner – before a long-term fraud and overpayments can take place.

There are currently 4,640 people aged 16 to 64-years-old claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Blackpool with 1,445 receiving payments for more than 12 months.

Lord Freud, minister for Welfare Reform, said: “It is only a small minority who commit fraud - but it costs the country over £1bn a year.

“We are keen to make sure that claimants know that even small overpayments can really add up over time, so they must get in contact with us and let us know about changes in circumstances straightaway.

Blackpool was picked as one of the six places to launch the campaign as the DWP required a spread of towns and cities across the county representing high, medium and low propensity to benefit change.

Mike Barry, operations director at Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Credit Union, said people should always report a change in their circumstances.

“People need to keep up to date with their correspondence so they don’t get a shock of their benefits changing or stopping,” he said.

“What we sometimes find is people’s benefits stop because they haven’t got in touch with the DWP and the first thing they know about it is when they open a letter telling them, so it’s important from that point of view to keep in touch with benefits.

“You can find yourself cut off when you haven’t done anything wrong.”

The campaign will last four to six weeks with each area being targeted with a different mix of adverts and mail.

Residents can report fraud to the National Benefit Fraud hotline on 0800 854 440 or gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud.

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