Prisoner benefit overpayments plummet – but DWP still missing £21m

Benefits paid to prisoners have declined by 96 per cent since 2007 – but almost £21m is still missing because only half the money has been recovered to the Department for Work and Pensions, an investigation by Help Me Investigate has revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) centralised its benefits database in April 2012, prompting the decline in overpayments to prisoners: data provided in response to Freedom of Information requests shows that in 2007 the DWP paid prisoners £8.8m in benefits, but this figure dropped to £320,000 in 2013.

Since 2007 prisoners have received at least £42.5m in benefits they are not entitled to, with £21.7m recovered by the DWP over the last seven years. In 2013, DWP managed to recoup more debt than it paid in overpayments.

Since 2012 the Ministry of Justice has also been informing DWP directly of new prisoners claiming benefit, allowing the figures of overpayments to decrease.

But half the money owed remains outstanding.

A DWP spokesman said:

“Previously, the system relied on prisoners telling us, whereas with the new system we stop the benefits the moment they go into prison.”

Overpayments to prisoners’ is the official term for paying benefits to prisoners, as their right to benefits is suspended upon their criminal conviction.

These overpayments, as well as the number of prisoners receiving benefits, have been decreasing on a year-on-year basis.

A majority of overpayments, £39.2m, occurred from 2007 to 2011 while the financial year to 2013 say overpayments totalling merely £3.2m.

Yet the figures show that overpayment of benefits to each individual prisoner has increased.

Whereas in 2007 the average prisoner in receipt of an overpayment received £487, last year that average stood at an estimated £1787. Although much fewer payments are being made in error, the errors still being made are worth more.

Responding to the data provided to Help Me Investigate, Labour MP Grahame Morris told the Daily Mirror:

“There must be an investigation into how this was allowed to happen and urgent steps taken to ensure there are checks in place so it doesn’t go on happening.”

The figures exclude Housing Benefit, which according to the DWP is administered by local authorities and therefore isn’t included in the data.

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Rachel Reeves declined to comment.

One thought on “Prisoner benefit overpayments plummet – but DWP still missing £21m”

  1. Brainwashing…. simply brainwashing!! what of the claimants Human rights, civil rights, the commities that oversee and report to the ministers – prior to the 2013 reform of the Welfare stae, the welfare reform that permitted the changes. In my opinion, and thank God , we are permitted to have a point of view:…………………………….. It’s all tory hype!
    there are equally – huge amounts of monies in terms of tax evasion of the wealthy in the UK, why, when this is raised as an issue, has there never been investigations with the same level of scrutiny?…. and why are those evading huge amounts of tax not made an example of – having TV channels 4/5 televising their every move ? Would it be possible for the tory party, their members of Parliament to pursue this with as must gusto!! I would like to hear Mr Camerson, Mr Ian Duncan Smith, Esther Mc Vey and all others in the associated departments who assisted in bringing the ‘sanctions to agree, to live on the JSA payments, but more to the point – to live on the amounts permitted by law, for all MP’s to agree to be televised living on ‘Sanctions’ (benefit allowances stop – causing destitution) for a period of 6 months, to show the public the realities of the ‘welfare refrom’ to redress the balance, I think Beveridge would be turning in his grave, all problems directly related to the sanctions and there effects are dealt with by Charitable organisations, if funds are low – then they are unable to provide the necessary information , assistance and guidance. The arrears in payments in Housing Benefits: is setup in this way to ensure further hardship, as ‘you cannot take blood out of a stone’ the payments of rent(when there is no social housing, now), relying in private landords to house people, the arrears, the letting agents discriminate against ‘DSS’ you only have to browse all estate agents to see an onslaught of ‘no DSS’ meaning no HB(as it is paid 4xweekly) ,
    these arrears cause issues with the landlords, and it not in an assured tenancy, the tenant has no legal rights, the landlords can railroad – and control the tenant and in some cases aggravate and hastle and harass the tenant about payments of arrears until they are forced to leave as the law permits this. When going to the LHA and housing list, there is a criteria, and if you don’t fit this, you are destitute…… utility bills – in arrears, bank payments in arrears, causing ‘a BAD CREDIT’ ….. being referred to CAB, then Credit union as no other financial institution will allow an account – discriminating………. deposit paymments needed to ensure a ‘roof over one’s head’ ,,,,, is unattainable. If the definition of WELFARE is what I understand it to be…… it is failing….on all counts!! The benefits ….. for a claimant is based on the contributions, taxes, etc. Is ‘benefits’ still taxed? There is an ethical questions to be asked, unfortunately with the system that is in place, the claimant is no longer able to ask a direct question, or, more to the point ensure an answer, nor are they given any information that will help the claimant, unless it is ‘dictated’ to in the rules layed down by the DWP, the advisors are no longer advisors they are COACHES, they talk at you, they dictate when you will recieve a call, you are dictated to when you will arrive at the Jobcentre, the threats of sanctions adorn every scrap of paper headed DWP, when looking for assistance when entering t’these bloody awful places'(Jobcentres), very often it is burly security officers that take it as part of their job to direct claimants to the differnt ZONE AREAS – that will be dealing with your claim, if asking for a booth for some ‘CONFIDNTIALITY’ you are refused…’We don’t do that any more’ is the retort… when signing on – you have to allow the DWP to gain some access to your email account, to allow them to check whether you are applying for jobs, with the emphasis on ’employment agencies’ who bombard your laptop or computer . This means that the coaches no longer have to assist the claimant with a more convention way of encouraging them to find work . The claimant is left to find work and robotically try to interacct with the brainwahsed DWP/Jobcentre Staff. I am an ex civil servant who worked in the old DHSS, DSS, and Benefits Agency… when the austere measures and policies of this government where not in place. I have any questions to ask the politicians of today on the websites they provide, leads the average taxpayer, employed or unemployed into a false sense of security – when spouting off about the needs – Whose needs ? Those ministers, the public servants, to allow these draconian measures to become law, allow the welfare reform ,the fact that children in Britain in 2015, are having to rely on ‘FOODBANKS’…… I often wonder if our current PM can sleep at night …..does he ever consider that these children will eventually be part of the electorate? That claimants are part of the electorate, he is a public servant!! His ‘in your face , arrogant His ninistes that speechify……….about the principles and alleged ethics of the welfare reforms – that there are more pressing issues relating to the ‘distribuation of finance in this country ; the tax evasion – and redeeming those taxes owed…….the huge amounts owed that could be used to finance the DWP budgeet without putting a large percentage of people on benefits ….. in POVERTY!! We are a comparatively wealthy country, the tories like to spin the yarn that they are – putting the financial wrongs- ‘right’……… they must – try walking in the shoes of the bare-footed people of Britain,,,, those on ‘benefits’…. and that included the ‘grey voters’ (relating to the elderly) ……..coe walk in their shoes, you arrgoant politicians!!! Not all claimants are ‘scrounger’s – or as depicted by the above named TV channels in ‘Benefit Britain, or Benefit Street or the likes are living off the laxpayer, not applying for work, on drungs, connitting crme, each case – when ‘signing on’ for welfare assistance should still be taken in merit. If I where an MP representing the Tory party I would be ashamed!! I believe in the principle of ensuring that people work, but I also believe that those genuinely needing assistance shoould be given it, with the view that there is a safety net to prevent unnecessary hardships, but being pro active and ensuring assistance, and guidance when looking for woek, I would say I have never known a country with full employment for all of its citizens. But the politicians like to spin that SPIN….. lets be realistic……. people have to work for less……….. same old, same old!!

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