Progress on recommendations will impact on benefit fraud

The Social Security Agency has been commended by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland for the effort it has put into progressing the majority of the recommendations made following a previous inspection of its Benefit Investigation Service.

“In 2006, CJI recommended that the SSA’s Benefit Investigation Service (BIS) make more effective use of the information it had access to, to help make a greater impact in reducing benefit fraud,” said Kit Chivers, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“We also found at that time, that while staff in the SSA were aware of the benefit fraud investigation unit, it was often viewed as a separate arm of the organisation.”
He continued: “When Inspectors from CJI returned to the SSA to review progress in 2008 -- two years after the original report was published -- they found 15 of the 18 recommendations had been achieved.
“Work was ongoing in respect of two other outstanding recommendations and CJI was in a position to set aside the last recommendation on the basis that it had been superseded by other SSA development activities,” said Mr Chivers.
Inspectors found that BIS had carried out a review of its business and had engaged statisticians to help develop a systematic model to assist the unit in prioritising cases for investigation.
This systematic approach improved the way BIS handled its workload and helped ensure it made the best use of available resources and the information it had available to tackle fraud. Steps were also taken to ensure there was regular, systematic analysis of results and intelligence gathered by the fraud unit to identify trends and emerging risks. 
In addition, Inspectors found the work of BIS was now integrated to a greater extent into the SSA as a whole. Policies, plans and promotional materials were developed to emphasis the agency’s key messages to all operational and security benefit staff. 
This was supported in presentations made by Fraud Liaison Officers to all staff within the SSA aimed at raising awareness of benefit fraud and the need for everyone to be involved in tackling it.
“CJI welcomes the commitment and effort the Benefit Investigation Service and the Social Security Agency have put into progressing the recommendations contained in the original inspection report, which will undoubtedly enhance their contribution to the criminal justice system,” said Mr Chivers.
“However, we acknowledge that some of the expected results of these efforts will take longer to mature, and that it may be a further six months or more before BIS can fully evaluate what has been achieved to date,” concluded the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice.