The DWP investigation into the supervision of bank accounts found that 63,000 claimants were in breach of the rules

A recent investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has found that tens of thousands of benefit claimants may be breaking the rules. The DWP asked two major banks to monitor the bank accounts of people receiving Universal Credit, Pension Credit or ESA (Employment and Support Allowance).

One of the banks, which has not yet been named, has identified 713,000 accounts of people claiming the benefits. Over a three-month period, it turned out that 60,000 of these accounts had balances higher than the limit for entitlement to benefits.

In addition, ‘fraud abroad’ was found on another 3,000 accounts. This is where the account holder lives abroad while claiming UK benefits, or goes on holiday for longer than allowed under DWP travel rules. Accounts were scrutinized for signs that they had been accessed from abroad for more than four consecutive weeks.

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The average monthly balance of the 60,000 accounts suspected of breaching capital limit rules was as much as £50,000. The maximum savings allowed for claiming Universal Credit and ESA is £16,000, while for Pension Credit – a top-up for low-income pensioners – is £10,000, Birmingham Live reports.

Currently the DWP can only inspect accounts if it suspects fraud or as part of the initial verification of a benefit claim. However, these new powers would allow for regular checks on accounts to ensure people are eligible for state support.

Benefit recipients are subject to restrictions on the time they can spend abroad. For those receiving Universal Credit, the limit is no more than one month at a time, while for ESA and Pension Credit recipients it is four weeks. Although individuals can still receive their state pension while living abroad, it is not possible to obtain a pension credit to increase the amount.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) carried out initial checks in July, August and September 2022 as part of its bank data collection plans, according to an impact assessment. Of the 713,000 accounts surveyed, 58 percent were owned by Universal Credit claimants, 22 percent by people who were ESA members and the remaining 20 percent by Pension Credit recipients.

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