Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Targeting Benefit Fraud

Dave announced today that the Government is teaming up with credit reference agencies to trawl through bills and credit card statements to help identify benefit thieves.

Good old Guido Fawkes has pointed out the inherent civil liberties violation here. Dave has tried to defend these accusations by saying that 'private companies use all sorts of different means to make sure they are not defrauded, why should the State be any different?'

Well, here's a good reason, Mr Prime Minister, sir: because the State is not in the business of turning a good profit, but rather protecting our society at minimum cost to its citizens.

Targeting benefit fraud is an admirable goal. But starting out from the assumption that the millions of people using the benefits system are screwing the system and should therefore be investigated until their innocence is proven is disgustingly authoritarian - exactly the sort of thing I expected from the last government.

 He's still watching

If Dave truly wants to cut the cost of the benefits bill, I have a few humble suggestions:
  • Limit benefits entitlement to British citizens. This will have the double effect of limiting immigration, as people will no longer migrate across Europe in order to abuse our system;
  • Capping all benefits claims at 80% of the net minimum wage. No one, under any circumstances, should be receiving more money for being out of work than those who are in work;
  • Abolish tax credits entirely, because they're a waste of fucking time. Use the proceeds to increase the income tax allowance, ensuring that everyone who should benefit, does benefit;
  • Replace the remaining benefits system with a simpler one based on holistic needs, not on the desire to reward certain demographics in exchange for votes. See my previous post on this.

Will any of my above suggestions help to cut fraud? Possibly not. But given that fraud accounts for £1.5billion of the total £197billion annual benefits bill, I think we've got bigger fish to fry.