The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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10,897 people caught receiving social benefits they were not entitled to – Social Policy Minister

Monday, 29 May 2023, 16:28 Last update: about 2 years ago

10,897 people were caught receiving misallocated social benefits which they were not entitled to in the last decade, Minister for Social Policy Michael Falzon said.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Falzon said that last year, over 1,059 benefit fraudsters were caught, and between 2012 and 2022, government saved around €41 million after identifying fraudsters.

He said that in 2012, 779 people were caught falsely claiming childcare, disability and unemployment aid which saved government around €2.8 million.

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“Those who cheat the welfare system for benefits they are not entitled to are guilty of “serious theft,” he said, saying that they are stealing money from government and hard-working citizens.

Nearly €10 million was recovered between 2021 and 2022 after irregularities were detected in more than 1,000 cases in misallocated benefits paid out by the Social Security Department.

The Ministry for Social Policy and Children's Rights announced measures to combat abuse of social services following the revelation that around 50% of new applications for non-contributory benefits were found to contain incorrect information provided by applicants.

Out of these 50%, almost 50% of the applications were rejected as they did not qualify for the benefits, he said.

The Division of Financial Assistance and Compliance within the Department of Social Security identified these discrepancies, that these individuals who applied for such services exceeded the stipulated amount.

Over a six-year period, spanning from 2016 to 2022, approximately 26,850 applications were scrutinized.

“These funds could have been invested in cases where genuine assistance was required,” he said.

“In 2016, the government established the Business Intelligence Unit, responsible for scrutinizing means-tested benefits before disbursing them. This division also includes the Benefits Compliance Unit, which examines cases of alleged abuse and conducts ongoing compliance checks,” Falzon continued

These measures and investigations have effectively prevented benefits from reaching individuals who were not entitled to receive them.

Cases of overpayments amounting to millions of euros have been identified and rectified, he said.

“The government will always strive to incentivize and assist those in need, but it will never tolerate or allow any form of abuse,” Falzon said, saying that efforts to ensure that social benefits reach those who truly need them will continue.

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