SFIS update 25/10/13

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Posted on: 25/10/2013 17:16 by Justin Phillips
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Dear Chief Executive,

Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS)

The Fraud & Error Strategy: Tackling fraud and error in the benefit and tax credits systems contained a commitment to establish a Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) to investigate Social Security welfare benefit & Tax Credit fraud across Local Authorities (LA), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and DWP. The strategy, including SFIS, was given Home Affairs clearance in October 2010.

In 2011 an agreement was reached to test and review an interim partnership approach for a single fraud investigation. In 2012 four SFIS pilots began to test a variety of partnership approaches and a single set of policies and procedures to help identify the best delivery model. An additional pilot began in April 2013 to support Universal Credit (UC) and a further four pilots will go-live shortly.

The pilots continue to provide very useful feedback and valuable lessons have been learned which have informed our recommendations for the future of SFIS. The pilots are also demonstrating the value of a single investigation and we are beginning to realise cross Government benefits.

Since inception the SFIS project team have worked closely with a range of delivery partners and consultation has taken place with senior representatives from DWP, Local Government and HMRC. We are keen to work together with you as we proceed

Initial Pilot evaluation and broader project analysis has provided evidence to recommend that SFIS be formed as a single organisation within DWP. Key findings from our work suggest that this model:

• Meets the strategy to deliver an integrated single organisation, promoting a clear understanding of purpose, direction, roles and responsibilities.;
• Provides an end to end accountability for the delivery of fraud investigation;
• Delivers a new consistent approach to fraud investigation with a coherent single policy, and single set of processes and procedures;
• Ensures the required legal powers for investigating the totality of all welfare benefit fraud and tax credit fraud;
• Delivers an effective, professional service which optimises resources and delivers substantial financial and efficiency related savings across government;
• A single organisation owned by DWP will have a single IT solution, a cross government IT solution would be prohibitively expensive;
• A single organisation owned by DWP requires no formal contracting arrangements. A partnership approach would need to establish and monitor complex contract management machinery to ensure consistent and adequate levels of service from all parties;
• All staff are employed under a single set of terms and conditions and work within a specific performance framework. A partnership would contain staff working to a wide range of employment contracts and a wide range of terms and conditions and management policies and procedures.

As you may know from the updates we have provided to the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and the District Councils’ Network, the proposal remains a recommendation until we have completed discussions with key partners, including HM Treasury about funding. Until governance steps have been finalised and funding agreement is reached, we cannot make any formal announcements or commitments. However I am aware that this proposal will have implications for Local Authorities, and as such I want to make you aware of our approach.

The SFIS project is continuing to work closely with official Local Government consultation groups, Local Government representatives, and HMRC to finalise our delivery approach to support a phased implementation and roll out during 2014/15.

Work is underway to finalise the business case, and the project team are working with Human Resources and legal experts to understand the impacts on people currently working on LA welfare benefit fraud, including the potential for TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment).

Understandably, there will be many questions about how the recommended approach impacts on staff, services and budgets and we commit to working with you and the Local Authority Consultation groups to manage these changes.

The SFIS Communications Hub on the LGA Knowledge Hub platform is regularly updated with the latest information about the Project, including Frequently Asked Questions and is our principal method of communication.

I will write again soon when we have more to update you with.

If you have any questions relating to SFIS, please do contact the project team by email:

Yours faithfully

Joanne Bradshaw
Director of Fraud, Error and Debt Programme