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George Osborne compares welfare abusers to muggers as Lord Freud unveils new measures to crackdown on £5bn cost of misclaimed benefits

By Tim Montgomerie

NOTW In tough language George Osborne compares welfare fraudsters to muggers in an interview with the News of the World (now behind a pay wall). The BBC quotes him as saying that "a welfare cheat is no different from someone who comes up and robs you in the street."

The Chancellor's remarks coincide with Lord Freud announcing a range of new measures that add stick to Iain Duncan Smith's recent welfare reform carrots.

The most significant of the new measures had appeared to be a 'three strikes and you are out' rule that would stop serial welfare abusers from receiving any benefits from the state for a three year period. The new policy was looking more like a headline-chasing initiative, however, after a "spokeswoman" for the Department for Work and Pensions said that any penalty would depend on how much money the claimant had, whether they had a family to support and the seriousness of their welfare abuse.

Other new measures against benefit fraudsters are the splash in the Mail on Sunday and also summarised in The Observer:

  • Recruitment of 200 extra benefit fraud investigators;
  • Establishment of a "mobile regional task force" to investigate every claim in high fraud "hot spots";
  • Extra powers to ensure more asset seizures;
  • Data-matching techniques to spot patterns of fraud;
  • Abolition of cautions as a penalty for fraud and introduction of civil penalties of £50 for minor offences;
  • Naming and shaming of offenders in the local press. Tomorrow this process will start with the identification of Sean Christopher Hill who claimed £10,000 in sickness benefits despite being a nightclub bouncer.


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