doc

A TWO-PRONGED campaign against benefit error and fraud was launched in Blackburn with Darwen yesterday.

The six-week drive will use adverts, posters, social media and letters to warn claimants they must disclose changes in their circumstances promptly to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Failure to do so could lead to overpayments, arrears, prosecution and loss of their benefits.

It is one of six pilot schemes across the country that could be rolled out nationally if successful.

It is aimed at cutting the £1.6billion-a-year cost of overpayments nationally, which has scarcely altered in the past five years and was higher last year than the £1.2billion cost of deliberate benefit fraud.

The six areas - including Southwark, and Hounslow in London, Blackpool, Epping Forest and Cardiff - cover a wide range of populations with varying levels of benefit fraud and error.

Claimants are warned they could face a fine of up to £2,000 for not disclosing a job or if they have moved in with a partner.

The local posters include a satellite photo of the borough and are backed up with, newspaper adverts, Facebook adverts and letters to claimants.

Residents are also urged to report suspected benefit fraud or changes to their circumstances to the DWP using website addresses or phone numbers included in the publicity.

Blackburn Labour MP Jack Straw and his Darwen Tory counterpart Jake Berry both welcomed the move.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: "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 straight away.

"The new pilot campaign will help us stop fraud and overpayments before they even happen."

Mr Berry said: “Many constituents come to see me because they have got into a mess with their benefit payments. This is a good opportunity to help them avoid running up large arrears and facing penalties because of it.”

Mr Straw said: “This is a sensible move. Benefits are aimed at those who need them and people should not rip off the taxpayer.

“This should help genuine claimants make sure they are getting the right benefit payments.”