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Benefit error disappointingly high

29 April, 2008

Sinn Féin MLA John O'Dowd, who is the Chairperson of the Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that the levels of benefit error by the Social Security Agency, and both under and over payment and fraud - are still disappointingly high.

The findings have been published in the PAC Committee's report on Social Security Fraud and Error.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"The benefit system is inherently complex. However, there are concerns that almost half of overpayments are due to Agency staff error and that checks aimed at validating payments have, on occasion, incorrectly changed benefit entitlements.

"I am also concerned that many many people who are entitled to benefits are not receiving their full entitlement, particularly the elderly, and would encourage the Agency to ensure such people receive their full entitlements.

"The Department of Social Development, Minister Margaret Ritchie and the Social Security Agency should press for simplification of the benefit system and update the outmoded IT systems." ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. In 2006-07 £60 million was overpaid and £22 million was underpaid to Agency customers.
  2. Errors by Agency staff during 2006-07 resulted in £28 million of overpayments and £19 million of underpayments.

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