Universal Credit is designed to provide important support to individuals who are on a low income, out of work or unable to work. The monthly payment is claimed by millions of people, and has proved a lifeline throughout the COVID-19. While the vast majority of people claim Universal Credit honestly, there are instances where issues may arise.
It is thought the relaxation of the checks accounted for some £3.8 billion in overpayments.
The number of people claiming Universal Credit soared as a result of the pandemic, which brought about job losses and business closures.
Those recorded as claiming doubled to six million since March last year, when restrictions were first announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, commented on the developments.
He said: “I am concerned that the level of fraud and error in the benefits system continues to increase year on year, now reaching its highest level since records began.
The DWP has now identified four key fraud and error risks within Universal Credit which it will need to tackle.
It is set to improve controls over incorrectly reported self-employment earnings, savings, living arrangements and housing costs.
Worryingly, several organised attacks orchestrated by criminals have been hunted out during the pandemic, where fraudsters have made claims in other people’s names.
A DWP spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Following an unprecedented year in which the number of Universal Credit claimants doubled as a result of the pandemic, fraud and error in the benefits system remains low with 95 percent of benefits worth more than £200 billion paid correctly.
“Our priority when the outbreak hit was to make sure money reached claimants – those most in need at a challenging time – as soon as possible and we are now reviewing suspicious cases.
“Those found to have claimed benefits to which they are not entitled face criminal investigation.”