The report acknowledges research carried out last year on behalf of the Royal Statistical Society, which found that the public believe that 24 per cent of benefit payments are claimed fraudulently (34 times greater than what official statistics suggest).
The report acknowledges that 'survey evidence suggests that the general public hugely overestimates the prevalence of benefit fraud.' It goes on to explain that benefit fraud is often confused with claimant error, which is more prevalent. Official data indicate nearly twice as much error (£2.3 billion of overpayments) as fraud (£1.2 billion) in the benefits system.
‘We believe that DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] could be clearer about the official estimated level of benefit fraud,’ the report concludes. ‘We therefore recommend that DWP publish, on separate days, discrete statistical summaries of its estimated rates of a) fraud and b) official and claimant error in the benefits system […] to reduce the risk of confusion or conflation of these statistics in media reporting and public perceptions about benefit fraud.’
Hetan Shah, executive director of the RSS said: 'It's good to see that our research in this area has really raised the profile of perception gap issues and we are pleased to see MPs debating how the matter can be improved.'