Bailiffs could soon be called in to seize cars, TVs and computers from benefit fraudsters under a new Government drive to deter claimants from fiddling the welfare system.
Downing Street is proposing powers to call in bailiffs to confiscate and sell high-value items to help recoup illicit gains from fraud, estimated to cost taxpayers £1.2bn a year.
Powers already exist to dock benefits from those found guilty of fraud, but Prime Minister David Cameron believes the prospect of losing valuable assets will provide a strong deterrent to cheats.
It is hoped that the threat of the bailiff’s knock at the door will encourage fraudsters to make arrangements to pay what they owe.
Essential items and low value goods are unlikely to be taken.
A No 10 spokesman said: “Getting the welfare budget under control is a key part of our long-term plan for the economy.
“We want to end the something-for-nothing culture and deliver for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.”
Recent cases have found individuals claiming multiple benefits for years despite having full-time jobs, portfolios of property and undeclared capital.
This year has seen the launch of a publicity campaign to encourage more people to correct errors in their benefit claims early and to persuade members of the public to report suspected cheats.
Among a series of examples of individuals prosecuted for benefit fraud provided by Downing Street was Alison Jacques, 55, of Leeds, ordered to pay £116,954, after pleading guilty to claiming income support, incapacity benefit and council tax benefit while working full time in a call centre.
Sly Malik, 49, of Barking, east London, was ordered to pay back £1,031,943 or face five years in prison after being found guilty of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and housing benefit, despite owning nine properties and running several companies.