Agenda item

Future of Counter Fraud work of ARP (Agenda Item 7)

Report of the ARP Fraud and Visits Team Manager.

Minutes:

Councillor Ray pointed out that the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) would only be looking at Benefits fraud.  He was concerned that the ARP would be left with a gap and asked what would happen to other types of fraud if staff were transferred to the DWP.

 

The Head of ARP explained that there would be a more detailed report provided to the next meeting which would consider the impact of the SFIS and give options for continuing with investigations into other types of fraud.  More information was needed from the DWP.

 

Councillor Smith agreed with that proposal.  The ARP was an exceedingly well run and successful service and he was concerned that the SFIS would affect that.  He asked what information was coming out of the early pilots.

 

The Fraud and Visits Team Leader advised that there were ongoing ICT issues.  The Local Authority Investigating Officers Group had done extensive work and raised a number of concerns with the DWP but they had received no answers and been told that the scheme would be reviewed between Phases One and Two.

 

Councillor Smith asked whether any of the pilots had been run in rural authorities as they had very different issues to urban authorities.  As the ARP was a large group with lots of local knowledge he suggested that it might be worth applying to become an agency for the DWP.

 

The Head of ARP thought it was unlikely that the DWP would be willing to relinquish any control.  They preferred to centralise services.  He also had concerns about the new service as there were still no details of the benefits administration funding that would be reduced as a result of SFIS and Universal Credit, even though SFIS was starting in some areas in October.

 

Officers confirmed that they were unlikely to have the answers before the next meeting but the report would set out the resource implications and highlight areas of concern and try to detail the areas of fraud investigation still to be covered.

 

The Chairman suggested that Councillors could lobby their MPs to use their influence to try to stop things going wrong.

 

The Officers explained that they had provided feedback to the DWP during the consultation.

 

The Executive Director (Breckland) agreed that there was an opportunity for the ARP to have a retained fraud service which she thought could focus on a range of activities including POCR (Proceeds of Crime Recovery).  The SFIS was focussed on Universal Credit.

 

The Director (West Suffolk) noted that as fraud teams were dismantled there might be opportunities for the ARP to get additional work helping small authorities who could no longer sustain their own fraud team for council tax.

 

The Head of ARP advised that the pilot for Universal Credit was scheduled to start in April 2016 with new claims.  There would then be a managed migration of existing claims.  The migration of pensions had been delayed until April 2018.

 

It was agreed that the Head of ARP and the Fraud & Visits Team Leader should send a letter to all local MPs making them aware of the Joint Committee’s concerns.

 

RESOLVED that a further review of the service provided by the ARP Counter Fraud resource be authorised.

 

Supporting documents: