An NAO report on Housing Benefit fraud and error, published on 17 October, found that overpayments made by the DWP had increased by nearly 6% to £1.4bn.
Of the £1.4bn, £340m of the overpayments were due to fraud – 1.4% of benefit spend; the rate of fraud has been stable since 2007-08.
There were, however, £150m in overpayments due to official error, which amounts to 0.6%, and the majority of overpayments were down to claimant error at £900m, 3.8% of benefit spending.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The Department for Work & Pensions is facing an escalating problem. The DWP has recognised the need to do more and has been developing a new strategy.”
Substantial resources currently go into administering Housing Benefit at the local authority level, with £466m — nearly half total administrative costs — earmarked for the task.
Strategies to tackle the errors, including local authority incentives, are now in place, though it is too early to measure their impact.