Éire go Brágh

Social Welfare FraudWe have condemned Minister Burton’s Campaign Against Welfare Fraud as being a witch-hunt against the weakest in our society.  She is appealing to the basest intellect – encouraging neighbours to spy on each other and criminalising masses of citizens who are already victims of continued corrupt political and economic systems.

She has quoted millions of Euro being saved but the Governments own published data denies these figures and instead shows us that almost nothing has been saved.

The millions and even billions quoted as potential savings from welfare fraud leave us with the impression that people are running riot and that everyone must be an abuser of the system.  The values mentioned being so large, and the scope of the investigating work, and the visitation of homes, and the anonymous reporting all creates an hysteria around this issue.

But this campaign is a nonsense – worse, it is sinister in its implications and motivation.

Let’s consider the facts of welfare fraud

We stated that of the 165 welfare fraud cases where fines were imposed in 2010 the maximum recovery could only be €247,500, that is 165 * the maximum fine in 2010 of €1,500 each.  BUT, that supposes that the max fine was imposed and recovered … a most unlikely event.  More likely is that individuals prosecuted have to repay a few Euro each week – typically €2.

Conceivably, that could mean a recovery in 2010 of:

  • 165 * €2 * 52 weeks = €17,160 in total for the year.

This is a tiny value …  it wouldn’t even pay the salary of one individual working on this campaign, it probably wouldn’t even cover the cost of the PR consultancy no doubt hired by Minister Burton in launching this campaign , or should we say crusade?

In all 2010 there was just over 12,000 so called anonymous tips, each one checked, and yet so few prosecutions … how does this translate to “massive welfare fraud“?  One might wonder where the anonymous tips came from – are they like telephone voting on behalf of a certain Kerry TD?

Is there ANY fraud in the system ?

It stands to reason that there must be, and maybe this makes the Departments assertions more believable.  We consider that, like nearly every other aspect of state administration, the welfare system is in a mess and has been allowed to reach this state by the very vested interests that have destroyed our economy.  But there is no evidence of rampant fraud, if there was we would have more prosecutions and real savings being made, not a mere pittance.

So, what is the basis for the Departments claims?

Some have asked us where these figures come from, well, they are from the Departments own website and the Oireachtas reports (some reference links below).  Some mainstream media have also reported on these cases and the prosecutions involved.

In 2011, the department has a target of €540 million in savings, but note below how this is worded – it is called “control savings“.  It appears that these ‘control savings‘ do not represent any actual cash at all – they are estimates of what might have been lost if they had not been watching!!!!

How cynical a presentation of figures is this?  Someone please tell us we are wrong …

Some references:

Statistics on Reports made to Department of Social Protection

Department has Targets for “Control Savings” and cases prosecuted in 2010

 For 2011 the Department has a target of reviewing 780,000 individual welfare claims and to achieve €540 million in control savings.

 In 2010, 209 cases were referred for criminal proceedings under social welfare legislation. In addition to the 209 cases, a further 132 cases of serious fraud involving multiple claiming of social welfare payments were referred to the Gardaí for consideration of criminal proceedings under the Criminal Justice (Fraud and Theft) Act 2001. 

(“referred to” does not mean prosecuted)

Amount to be deducted /recovered for welfare fraud:

 in cases where a person has no income other than a social welfare payment, the Department can deduct €2 per week in respect of the overpayment. 

So what are “Control Savings” ?

Control Savings are an estimate of the future savings to the Department as a result of the various control activities. Control savings are not actual monies recovered by the Department but are good indications of the increase in social welfare expenditure that would occur if these activities did not take place. Actual monies recovered arise where the Department raises and recovers overpayments in individual cases.

We are concerned that this definition of ‘Control Savings‘ is very weak, and will investigate this matter further.  If anyone has experience in this area we would be grateful for any information or advise available.