A data matching project has uncovered more than 5,000 ineligible immigrants receiving benefits in the UK. Since the government undertook this exercise of using matching software on benefits, tax and border control data for the first time recently, it has released figures stating that that around 371,000 benefit claimants were non-UK nationals when they applied for a National Insurance number.
Shock for Ministers
In an article in the Daily Telegraph on 19 January 2012, Chris Grayling, Employment Minister, and Damian Green, Immigration Minister, wrote that they had been ‘shocked’ to discover that the claiming system they inherited did not record the nationality of claimants, so that they were unable to answer questions in the House of Commons about the numbers of overseas nationals claiming benefits. “It was a scandalous omission.”
So they began a modification programme for the master data management systems involved, whereby nationality will be recorded by 2013 when the Universal Credit will be introduced. In the meantime, they had initiated the fact finding exercise, which will result in benefits cost savings.
More Detailed Analysis
Of the initially non-UK national claimants, the vast majority were also non-EU – some 258,000. Of these, a sample of 9,000 was given more detailed scrutiny. Around a quarter could not be tracked down, probably because of lack of adequate data cleansing solutions. Of the rest, while it was found that most of them can legitimately claim, and over half had since gained UK citizenship, 2% could not prove they had lawful immigration status and were apparently claiming under false pretences. If that 2% is applied as an average to the 258,000, it comes to over 5,000 claimants receiving benefits when they are not eligible, adding up to a significant sum leaving the treasury coffers.
Further investigations are on-going because “we have to have a system that is fair and transparent, and which stops people receiving money that they should not be entitled to.” The ministers agree that where people migrate here, and make a contribution by working and paying taxes, if they fall on hard times they should be entitled to the same help as the rest of us, but there has to be a clamp down on ‘benefits tourism’.
How it Could all Have Been Avoided
Apart from the glaring omission of nationality from the data on claimants, and the lack of clean data that resulted in claimants not traced, the individual master data management systems may well be adequate for their separate organisations. What was missing was any record linkage between them. If data management professionals had been made aware of the questions that would need answers to come from the data, they could have utilised cross-enterprise information integration systems with reports that would have signalled and identified individual potential fraudsters, probably saving billions of pounds of tax payers’ money.