Sharing of data shows benefit fraud

Welfare fraud reforms designed to stop illegal payouts have resulted in the cancellation of more than 350 southern benefits.

Ministry of Social Development data released yesterday revealed 367 benefits in the southern region were cancelled and $1.8 million in overpayments needed to be recovered.

The ministry website said about 360,000 people lived in the southern region, with nearly two-thirds living in Dunedin, Invercargill and Timaru.

The reform was launched in January last year and data was up to the end of March this year.

In the same period, the reforms resulted in 5900 benefits in New Zealand being cancelled.

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Burrows said nationally to the end of June, the reforms had recouped $47 million.

Mr Burrows said 4614 beneficiaries were investigated, to reveal 2270 overpayments, and 893 people were prosecuted in the 2013-14 year.

The investigation identified $88.4 million of fraud and illegitimate overpayments.

Mr Burrows said the enhanced information sharing between the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Social Development in February last year was the ''standout success'' of the reform and resulted in nearly 6900 benefits being cancelled.

''These are not people being kicked to the kerb - they are people who are working, and earning enough money that they are no longer eligible for the benefit,'' Mr Burrows said.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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