Why do people commit benefit fraud? What recommendations would you make for policies to reduce benefit fraud? When delving into a question like this it is vital to explain that the first part of this question has several explanations to it. I will start by firstly discussing how various influential groups have played down benefit fraud but how news media and politicians have exaggerated benefit fraud, causing a wide spread belief that everyone is doing it so it is acceptable.
Secondly I will discuss why people commit benefit fraud due to the unravelling of rights and responsibilities of welfare citizenship. Then I will take into consideration age, gender and ethnicity and explain how this has a bearing on benefit fraud and to show how this can help explain why people commit benefit fraud. Then I will discuss the most frequent reason that I found which is economic necessity, benefits alone did not fulfil their basic needs so fraud outweighed the consequences of being caught.
I will then discuss how morals interplay with reasons for why people commit benefit fraud; this is because I found that fraudsters do not believe that it is dishonest compared to other organised crime. For the second part of the question, what recommendations would you make for policies to reduce benefit fraud? I will start by suggesting policies be made so that children are kept in some form of education for longer and to make more apprenticeships and training available for young people.
Secondly it will always be crucial for policies to set aside a budget for campaigning, using all sorts of media that is available for deterring fraud and changing attitudes that surround fraud. Another policy that will prove useful would be wider access greater use of data to detect and prosecute fraudsters, and also to simplify the complex welfare system so not to deter clients away from following the right procedures. Finally the last policy recommendation I will make is that of offering initial and ongoing further training for staff in detecting fraud faster.
I will answer this question and try to adhere to the layout I have presented, and discuss all the issues that I have stated and then move onto the next after I am satisfied that it has been explained relevantly. Then finally move onto my conclusion where I will piece all my findings together in a sociological way. So to begin I have found that “Social policy academics and the poverty lobby have hitherto been rather coy about social security fraud and have usually argued that it is a minor problem, the importance of which is much exaggerated by the news media and politicians.
However, there is some evidence that media and political “hype” tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in so far as the belief that “everybody does it” can become a form of justification for social security fraud. ” (Dean and Melrose 1997:104). So from this it is clear that change starts at the top of these institutions and then maybe if this is taken seriously it will filter down and make people change their perceptions of benefit fraud. It is important to change people’s attitudes towards believing that everyone is on the fiddle.
Now moving on I will take into consideration, the unravelling of rights and responsibilities of welfare citizenship. What is put forward here is that people’s rights to have benefits because they are citizens of a welfare state have eroded or that far too many conditions have been placed mainly in 1980s and 1990s. From this the question has risen “could it be that their sense of obligation to the welfare state has also eroded? ” (Dean and Melrose, 1996:4). So if there are fewer obligations to the welfare state then is this another reason to fiddle or commit benefit fraud because the attachment is severed making it easier to be dishonest.
Also “Many did feel that their legitimate expectations of the welfare state had been betrayed and believed this justified their dishonesty” (Dean, 2002:216). Some of these feelings or the causes of betrayal can be placed at the feet of privatization of certain parts of the welfare system but not all. Alongside this it was revealed that there were a high number of people displaying anti government or anti establishment sentiments which I would think facilitates their justification.
Now I will take into consideration age, gender and ethnicity. Where I found “There were some important differences between fiddlers with regard to age, gender and ethnicity. We noted, for example, that older people, women and black people tended to be more anxious about fiddling, to have stronger attachments to idea of the welfare state and rather clearer conceptions of the responsibilities of citizenship than did younger people, men and white people respectively” (Dean and Melrose, 1997:106).
The meaning given for this is that older people may feel that they have put more into the welfare system, whereas younger people do not share the same ideals due to the economic and ideological pressures they have seen the welfare state face and also similarities can be seen in today’s economic climate, pressures such as the youth are likely not to receive state pensions after retirement and the huge debt that has been put on the future tax payers. So justifying the fraud, get what you can when you can because it’s not always going to be there.
When it came to gender the differences were complex and subtle and found that “up to a point, they were consistent with Beatrix Campbell’s (1993) assertion that women make better citizens than men because, particularly in adverse economic circumstances, it falls to women to carry the practical responsibility for holding families and communities together” (Dean and Melrose, 1996:4). This helps explain why men might have reasons to commit fraud because they have less responsibilities to focus on and are less attached to forms of citizenship and society. There are several reasons for this fraudulent behaviour.
The commonest was that of economic necessity “People say that they cannot manage on low level of income provided by social security system to meet the needs of themselves and their families” (Millar, 2003:285). But this proves complex in the way that some ones cost for basic needs is not the same as the next. So it is vital to understand hardship and deprivation “While some respondents would simply say the benefits just aren’t enough or I can’t manage on the money, or others would explain how it felt: I feel sad and depressed sometimes when I haven’t got a penny or its not much fun living on the breadline” (Dean and Melrose, 1996:9).
So fiddling is a way not to be in this situation of low income or to feel sad or depressed and they worry more about this than being caught “For the claimants we interviewed low income was a bigger worry than the prospect of getting caught for fiddling. ” (Dean and Melrose, 1997:105). Moving onto morals, what I found is that the people that commit benefit fraud do not believe that their fraudulent behaviour is wrong or dishonest and compare their actions to bigger more organised fraud so justifying themselves in this way.