A campaign has been launched by councils across Lincolnshire in an attempt to crack down on housing benefit fraud and error.
A Parliamentary report which looked at the annual expenditure of housing benefit in the UK found that most councils were affected by claimant error or deliberate fraud.
In Lincolnshire the annual spend on Housing Benefit is £160,000,000, for around 52,500 households.
Lincolnshire authorities have joined forces and are working together to support the Government’s bid to cut the cost of fraud and error.
The Lincolnshire campaign, called ‘Tell Us’, runs until March 2016. The campaign’s key message to housing benefit claimants is simple. If you claim housing benefit, tell the relevant local authority about all changes in your circumstances, such as:
*Money coming into the home, such as pensions, wages, other benefits or tax credits
*People who live in your home
*Savings and investments
All Lincolnshire authorities will be checking their residents’ housing benefit claims. As a priority, the initial focus will be on those considered a high risk of not having reported changes which means they may have received too much housing benefit which will have to be paid back.
Whilst most claims will be genuine and correct, the review is essential in order to find those that are wrong.
Some residents may have simply forgotten to let their council know that they have had a change in their circumstances, such as children moving out or leaving full-time education, getting a job or a pay increase. Changes such as these should be brought to the attention of their district or borough council as soon as possible to avoid claiming the wrong amount of benefit.
Now is the time to notify your council of a change before fraud investigators take more serious action, which can include prosecution.
SKDC’s benefits manager Heather Green said: “Anyone who claims housing benefit and has had a change in their circumstances that might affect the amount of benefit they receive should contact their local district or borough council immediately. Most residents will be claiming the correct amount, and therefore do not need to worry.
“However, it is an offence not to declare changes in circumstances, and anyone found to be in receipt of housing benefit that they are not entitled to may have to pay back the money and could face court action or financial penalty. ‘Tell Us’. We want to help claimants avoid being in such a position.”
To report a change in your circumstances, contact your local council on the following numbers:
*Boston Borough Council - 01205 314202
*City of Lincoln Council - 01522 873355
*East Lindsey District Council – 01507 601111
*North Kesteven District Council - 01529 414155 (or 01522 699699 if calling from a Lincoln number)
*South Holland District Council - 01775 761161
*South Kesteven District Council - 01476 406080
*West Lindsey District Council - 01427 676565