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Tories accused of benefit fraud witch hunt

This news post is over 6 years old

Few allegations are ever proven, data reveals

Campaigners and politicians are accusing the Tory government of a witch hunt after it was revealed most benefit fraud tip offs fail.

A freedom of information request found that between 2015-16 and 2016-17, 332,850 cases of alleged benefit fraud were closed by investigators.

Of these, 287,950 (87%) were found to have no or little evidence to substantiate the allegations made.

The Tory government has encouraged the public to report any suspicions of benefit fraud even creating a new confidential hotline to make it easier.

However research shows the public wildly overestimate the prevalence of benefit fraud, with voters believing £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is fraudulently claimed, while official government statistics put the fraud rate at just 1.1%.

In 2015-16, total spending on benefits was £172.3bn, which means that £1.9bn was fraudulently claimed.

Neil Gray MP, the SNP's social justice spokesperson, accused the Tories of "creating a witch-hunt which demonises low-paid workers relying on tax credits and the sick and disabled who are unable to work", adding: "It’s another example of the Tories dividing communities as neighbours become suspicious of each other."

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants commit fraud, but those who do are diverting support from people who need it the most.

"Calls to the fraud hotline are vital in tackling this crime – and information from the public helped us detect more than £45m in benefit fraud in 2016 alone.”