To ask the Minister for Social Protection the number of social welfare inspectors carrying out investigations in each region in 2010, 2011 and 2012; if she will outline the resources allocated to the inspection of welfare fraud in 2010, 2011 and 2012; the number of fraudulent claims that have been identified per inspector during each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D):
Control is an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the Department and all staff involved in the administration of the various social welfare schemes are acutely aware of the need to implement appropriate controls at every stage of the process.
Control staffing resources have remained fairly constant over the period 2010 €“ 2012 and, currently, there are in the region of 650 staff whose work includes control activities. This figure includes approximately 400 Social Welfare and Special Investigation Unit Inspectors and the remainder of the staff are based in the Local Offices and Scheme Headquarters or other control units.
One of the major changes that has occurred over the period referred to by the Deputy arises from the transfer of some 1,700 Community Welfare Service (CWS) and FÁS staff to the Department. A more integrated approach to fraud control can, therefore, now be realised as a single customer view for control purposes is possible. The staff numbers above do not include the CWS or FÁS staff whose work would also include a control dimension.
Each major headquarter scheme section has a dedicated control unit which initiates, undertakes and co-ordinates all control activities within their respective areas. While some ‘desk review’ work is carried out at these units, the detailed investigations are sent to Inspectors, including the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to carry out.
The SIU carry out a wide range of control activities and projects which include reviewing means-tested claims and entitlements, investigating fraud and abuse and carrying out employer inspections. The Unit also works jointly with Revenue staff in Joint Investigation Units and other inter-agency work is undertaken with NERA, Customs and the Gardaí.
In addition, it is worth noting that:
· Activation and Control Teams operate at local level. They provide a focal point for the management and co-ordination of all the activities and resources in relation to the control of schemes at local level. They augment general control activity with particular approaches based on local knowledge and circumstances; and
· Medical Assessors carry out medical review examinations and desk reviews/assessments of medical reports in order to provide a second medical opinion for the guidance of Deciding and Appeals Officers on all medical aspects of the illness schemes.
The table below illustrates the level of control activity and control related reviews that were recorded by the Department from 2010 to 2012:
2010 – 929,383
2011 – 982,580
2012 – 1,196,180
Control reviews are proactive reviews on claims in payment. It is important to stress that not all of these will have been carried out by Inspectors. As outlined above, control activity is carried out in a number of ways by different staff and teams.
Finally, it should be noted that Social Welfare Inspectors are appointed under the Social Welfare Acts to investigate and report on claims and to carry out inspections at employer premises to ensure that there is compliance with the PRSI scheme. An Inspector’s report is then used to inform the Deciding Officer, who is also appointed under the Social Welfare Acts to make decisions on claims based on all the facts and evidence available. Therefore, the breakdown of the number of fraudulent claims that have been identified per inspector during each of these years is not available.