East Antrim claimants have been urged to ensure they have declared any changes in their circumstances to avoid being accused of benefit fraud.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has expressed his support for the Social Security Agency campaign to assist in the detection and prevention of benefit fraud, which he said costs tax payers tens of millions of pounds every year in Northern Ireland.
But the DUP representative has also voiced his concern that some people are being classed as fraudsters because they have not notified the Social Security Agency of a change in their circumstances.
“Often this is through ignorance or, because they believe that their employer has notified the authorities or in some cases because they simply do not know how to give the notification,” Mr Wilson said.
“On a regular basis I have constituents who come to see me faced with huge bills for demands for money that has been paid to them wrongly because changes in circumstances have not been given to either HMRC in the case of tax credits or the Social Security Agency in respect of a large range of benefits.
“I would encourage people to ensure that all changes in circumstances are notified. In some instances this could be to their benefit because they would receive more money, in other cases it will mean a reduction in the payments they receive, but the fact of the matter is, that eventually the change will be spotted and there will be demands for the money to be paid back and where it is deemed that the information has not been supplied deliberately, the individual could be classed as a fraudster.”
The Social Security Agency’s campaign encouraging people to be open about their circumstances will be running for the next number of weeks, and Mr Wilson is hopeful it will alert the public to the need to provide full information on their circumstances.
“No-one wants anybody to be denied benefits they are entitled to and a large part of my constituency work is ensuring that people do get paid what they are entitled to as citizens of this country, but equally, it is wrong that benefits are claimed by people who are not entitled to them,” Mr Wilson concluded.