The crime of forming a relationship

This is from a press statement by Lord Freud, reported today.

Pretending you are a single parent to get benefits when you are actually living with a partner is stealing money from the people who genuinely need help. Sometimes these claims can be fraudulent from the outset, but often a person’s circumstances change gradually and they don’t tell the Department. Either way, it is a crime and one we are determined to put a stop to.”

So gradually forming a relationship, and not knowing quite what the position is, is a crime.

Freud goes on to say:

Universal Credit will simplify and automate the benefits system to make it less open to abuse and ensure this money is going to those who need it the most.

It is hard to see how the introduction of Universal Credit will make a difference to the situation – with one main exception. In the past, claimants have only been liable to repay benefits if they have failed to disclose a material fact. Universal Credit is going to include measures to allow the government to recoup overpayments, irrespective of whether or not a claimant has reported their circumstances, or whether they can reasonably be expected to know or understand that an overpayment has been made.

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