Wel­fare cheats chased be­yond the grave: €14m al­ready found

Dead tar­geted due to fraud or er­ror pay­ments

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - OUT AND ABOUT - By Anne Sheri­dan

SO­CIAL Pro­tec­tion in­spec­tors have tar­geted the dead in the hunt for mil­lions of tax­payer eu­ros paid to peo­ple with hid­den as­sets, the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day can re­veal.

More than €14m has al­ready been re­claimed from the es­tates of over 400 dead peo­ple last year, work­ing out at an av­er­age of €35,000 each.

Ju­nior Min­is­ter in the depart­ment, Finian McGrath, who re­vealed the fig­ures to the MoS, said the over­pay­ments were made when es­tates are be­ing wound up be­cause those who made the claims gave false in­for­ma­tion or through er­ror, or where a rel­a­tive or friend con­tin­ues to make the claims.

He said the over­pay­ment is dis­cov­ered ‘when the sched­ule of the de­ceased’s as­sets is re­ceived in the depart­ment and it is as­sessed that he or she had been re­ceiv­ing means-tested pay­ments be­yond his or her en­ti­tle­ment. This is of­ten the case where the de­ceased per­son did not dis­close or fully dis­close money in fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions, had in­vest­ments or did not dis­close an in­ter­est in prop­erty or land.

‘The amount of fraud go­ing on is min­i­mum,’ he said.

Mi­nor over­pay­ments are made when en­ti­tle­ments con­tinue to be paid out in the days im­me­di­ately af­ter the death and be­fore the depart­ment is told. And in ‘rarer’ cases a fam­ily mem­ber, agent or other per­son con­tin­ues to cash a pen­sion or other so­cial wel­fare pay­ment due to the de­ceased.

Mr McGrath has re­vealed that €14.3m was over­paid in re­spect of 408 dead peo­ple, who had undis­closed or un­der­dis­closed as­sets at the time of their deaths.

Last Oc­to­ber, a pen­sioner who used two PPS num­bers to steal more than €200,000 in ben­e­fits from the Ex­che­quer over al­most 20 years was handed down a sus­pended sen­tence.

The 72-year-old fraud­u­lently claimed De­serted Wives’ Al­lowance and the non-con­trib­u­tory state pen­sion un­der her mar­ried name, while work­ing a va­ri­ety of jobs us­ing her maiden name.

The So­cial Pro­tec­tion Depart­ment pro­cesses more than two mil­lion ap­pli­ca­tions for sup­port ev­ery year and makes pay­ments to some 1.4m ev­ery week. A spokesper­son told the MoS that nearly 755,000 re­views were con­ducted by the depart­ment last year.

‘Prac­tice fo­cuses on ar­eas where risks are known to ex­ist, in­clud­ing the risk of death of a pen­sion re­cip­i­ent. Death reg­is­tra­tions are col­lected by the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter’s Of­fice, which op­er­ates un­der the aegis of the depart­ment and re­sults in im­me­di­ate ter­mi­na­tion of pay­ment,’ said a spokesper­son.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar has said the low­est es­ti­mate of the scale of wel­fare fraud in this coun­try is about €40m a year.

‘That is a lot of money, in my view. Let us not for­get that peo­ple who en­gage in wel­fare fraud are not the poor and vul­ner­a­ble. They are peo­ple who are pre­tend­ing to be poor and vul­ner­a­ble. They are peo­ple who are work­ing and claim­ing,’ said the Taoiseach.

The Pub­lic Ser­vices Card has also helped de­tect more than 135 cases of sus­pected so­cial wel­fare fraud, us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy since 2013.

So­cial Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Regina Do­herty said this tech­nol­ogy has led to a num­ber of suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tions, with sig­nif­i­cant cus­to­dial sen­tences be­ing im­posed.

The card, through the in­clu­sion of a pho­to­graph, signature, and bet­ter se­cu­rity fea­tures, ‘con­sid­er­ably re­duces the po­ten­tial for iden­tity theft, forgery and fraud­u­lent use.’

‘€40m a year lost in so­cial wel­fare fraud’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.