On the ‘State of Welfare’ programme on BBC Radio 4 programme, I was astonished at how certain people kept on protesting and arguing that there is very little fraud.
There is a world of a difference between the amount of fraud detected and the amount that actually exists.
When the Benefits Agency did an in-depth investigation of 4,000 cases in 1997, they found that about a quarter of claimants for lone parent benefit and Jobseekers’ Allowance were fraudulent. But even that is probably an understatement.
As I mentioned on the programme, Kathryn Edin in the USA led research into how it was that the expenditure of single parents on benefits there was higher than their apparent income. She went to great lengths to get the confidence of the women concerned. They had to be reassured that nothing they said would get back to the benefits or tax authorities. People were interview two or three times and sometimes only revealed the truth on the third interview.
She found that 46 per cent were doing work of some sort for extra money. About 5 per cent of the total lone parents were doing work that was reported to the authorities. The rest did not report their work. All of the the 379 women interview in depth were getting extra money of one sort or another - mainly through work or gifts - except for one.
I mentioned all this to Polly Toynbee in the Green Room. As I told her, the research is respected by both Left and Right in the USA – perhaps because both sides can make use of it. But at least let us be straight about the reality. Fraud is very normal. Indeed, some would say that only through fraud can those on benefits ‘make ends meet’. It would be good if similar research could be done in the UK.
One other thing: Beveridge in his grave must be astonished at the views ascribed to him and words in his report that he never knew were there!
For example he said very little about healthcare and certainly did not design the NHS which was framed after the war by Bevan. Bevan was on the far Left of the Labour Party. Beveridge was a Liberal. Nobody but Bevan would (or could) have pushed through such a government monopoly.
Apparently the programme will be repeated at 8pm on Sunday.
Incidentally, I occasionally ‘tweet’. My username – or whatever it is called – is @JGBartholomew .