Until last year, the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) were responsible for investigating and prosecuting fraudulent tax credit claims credits while the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and local authorities are responsible for fraudulent social security benefit claim cases.
Under new Government proposals since 2015 all these cases are to be handled by a new agency, the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS).
The SFIS is a partnership between DWP Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC and local authorities. All three organisations will work closely together to deliver a service where a single investigation covers all welfare benefit fraud allowing SFIS to make more efficient use of its resources at its disposal.
It has taken quite a while for the SFIS to come to life. In 2011 it was agreed that there would be a first pilot. In 2013, 4 pilots were launched in order to find the best delivery model in Corby Borough Council, Glasgow City Council, London Borough of Hillingdon and Wrexham Council.
The objectives of the new SFIS are:
· To ensure all fraudulent claims of social security and tax credits are be investigated according to a single set of guidelines and priorities.
· To create a more coherent investigation service that is joined up, efficient and operates in a more consistent fair manner.
· To conduct single investigations.
· To fuse together expertise.
There are concerns as to whether SFIS would be able to achieve its main aim to address multiple frauds together in single investigations and prosecutions, especially if it is rolled out before the Universal Credit scheme is.
SFIS was rolled out from October 2014 through to March 2016. Prosecutions arising from SFIS will be conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales.
For more information read our dedicated Benefits Fraud page.