Prisoners overpaid £2m in benefits in Northern Ireland

Prisoners in Northern Ireland have been paid £1.94 million in benefits over the last six years, despite not being entitled to them, according to data obtained by Help Me Investigate.

And “overpayments” to prisoners – the official term for paying benefits to those in prison – have increased by more than half in the last year for which figures were available.

Freedom of Information requests by Gesbeen Mohammad reveal that the Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland (DSDNI) paid prisoners £198,299 in benefits in 2011, increasing to £307,501 in 2012.

Prisoners’ rights to benefits are suspended upon their criminal conviction. However, it is up to the Department of Justice or the prisoner to inform DSDNI of the conviction.

The Department say that they do not track recoupment of overpayments and therefore cannot say how much of the benefit overpaid to people when in prison has since been recovered.

However, over 80 per cent of the money so far is expected to be recovered to the DSDNI.

A Social Security Agency spokesperson said:

“When the Department becomes aware that a debtor is admitted to prison, overpayment recovery action is immediately suspended.”

Recovery of the debt only takes place when the prisoner has been discharged from prison.

In the last six years there have been almost 6,000 cases in the region involving prisoners being wrongly paid.

The majority of payments were for Income Support, followed by Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit.

A Social Security Agency spokesperson said:

“These benefits account for the bulk of the value and volume of overpayments because they were some of the most widely claimed benefits in Northern Ireland in this period.”

Individuals may account for more than one case: in 2012, only 800 prisoners were wrongly paid benefits – in 2013, this figure increased to 1300.

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland failed to comment.

2 thoughts on “Prisoners overpaid £2m in benefits in Northern Ireland”

  1. It’s no wonder re-offending figures are so high across the UK. Free board, lodgings, telly and a nice little pension pot building up on the outside. Do the tax payers alliance and the prison reform trust know about this stuff ? They should. Do these criminals also get their rent paid on the outside whilst in their warm flowery dell’s totting up their profits? It must be costing billions in total. What do the prison authorities think about it? I bet the Secretary of State’s job is on the line, she must be having puppies.

  2. These figures are skihcong. I understand HMRC & DWP are inundated with work, However THIS IS THE EXACT REASON THEY ARE THERE.If the system is not working then change the system, dont ride it out to see what happens. Change it now rather than later. Ok so figures for benefit fraud ect are unsettling but look at the huge media drives taking place to tackle this. The whole process could be made much simpler and also reduce costs and error. Lets be honest, at this point trying out untested methods couldnt cause any real further detriment to the economy. Do something for those in poverty & those that genuinely need help.

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