The government are proposing to give Social Welfare inspectors extra powers to help prevent fraud. The details of the new powers are contained in amendments to the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 .
The new powers will enable Social Welfare inspectors to detect and combat social welfare fraud and abuse at ports and airports, to make inquiries of landlords and to require identity checks for social welfare claims.
A major area of potential fraud is Rent Supplement. About 95,000 people received rent supplement in 2012 at a cost of €503 million . The proposals include a new power of enquiry to landlords by Social Welfare inspectors to ensure that Rent Supplement is being correctly paid.
Social Welfare inspectors will also be given new powers regarding enquiry at ports and airports. In the last two years, 1,400 people were found not to be resident and continuing to claim social welfare payments. The detection resulted in Exchequer savings of €13 million.
There are also going to be new powers in relation to the provision of information to establish identity. The phased introduction of a new Public Services Card (PSC) has already begu. The card will act as a key for access to public services in general and for identifying and authenticating individuals.�
In the case of social welfare claims the existing legislation is being amended to make it a condition that a claimant’s identity is appropriately authenticated. This provision also allows for a photograph and electronic signature to be taken, retained and reproduced.