Profile: Sir Charlie Mayfield

John Lewis Partnership Chairman

Benefit fraud - prevention better than persecution?

They’re not shy of publicity, this new Government. Not content with targeting 40 per cent spending cuts and taking free school milk away (those under-5s won’t be voting for years), we’re back on the benefits fraud trail again. It’s an obvious target and one that a succession of governments have tried to tackle.

The difference here is acknowledging for the first time the role of tracking financial transactions in identifying potential fraud by an individual. This is not a completely new initiative - credit data has been used by Central and Local Government for a while. The difference sounds like a much more co-ordinated use of credit file transaction data by the DWP, together with a risk-reward model to encourage potential suppliers.

The latter point limits the number of potential suppliers to, well, Experian really! It will be interesting to see what impact being a “bounty hunter” has on its consumer-friendly, “let us check your credit report” image.

However, there is still much other companies can do to help Government fight fraud. GB Group has been helping Local Government identify properties missing from the Council Tax register, for example, to help ensure that a fair level of tax is collected for properties they serve.

The real savings will come from the work around prevention of error in the processes and data management in the DWP. Getting the data right up front and simplifying the process of proof of identity of the claimant will also make it easier for the deserving to receive the benefits they need.

The hard yards for the Government, DWP and its suppliers will be reaching beyond the management of existing fraud to get these upfront processes right to prevent it happening in the first place. Let’s hope we can all help Ian Duncan Smith with the real savings offered. Then we can worry about Experian interrogating our spending habits.

Nick Brown, Managing director, GB Group

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