Welcome to Reality Check. Today I’m taking a close look at the Conservative pledge to cut billions from the welfare bill.
Tory 3-strikes Policy
First-time offenders would lose benefits for three months
Second-time offenders would lose benefits for six months
Third-time offenders would lose benefits for up to three years
The party says that benefit fraud and error has cost £80 every second under Labour.
Their answer is what they call a “crackdown” on cheats. Anyone who is cautioned or convicted of benefit fraud three times will have their payments stopped for up to three years.
So how much will their “three strikes and you’re out” policy actually save?
We asked the Conservatives and they said “We can’t say”, so I have attempted to do the sums instead.
How many people have been convicted of benefit fraud three times? The Department for Work and Pensions tells me the answer is… zero. No-one. Ever.
How many have had their benefits stopped after two convictions? Last year the figure was 69 people.
Stopping their benefits for twice as long, as the Tories propose, would save roughly £100,000 a year or less than one penny a second. Thus reducing the cost from £80 a second to £79.99.
Even if we include those people cautioned as well as convicted, it is clear that this proposal is not going to save much money.
Theresa May was asked if she knew there was no record of anyone being convicted three times for such an offence
The shadow work and pensions secretary, Theresa May, was asked by Reality Check if she knew there was no record of anyone being convicted three times for benefit fraud.
She declined to give a direct answer, but said the policy was intended to send out a clear message to benefit fraudsters.
The Conservatives’ bigger promises on welfare rely on saving £600m within three years. Not by targeting cheats, but getting people off Incapacity Benefit (IB).
Basically, the Tories argue that one in five of the 2.6 million people currently on IB is fit for work. That’s just over half-a-million claimants.
They would be moved onto Jobseekers Allowance which gives them about £1,300 a year less.
The government is already planning to do the same thing and last month calculated moving people off IB would save £300m a year over the next five years.
The Conservatives’ figures suggest a saving of £200m a year – significantly less than Labour.
But there’s a problem with both figures.
They are based on an assumption that significant numbers can be moved off IB. But no-one knows if that is right because it’s not been tried.
We do know that with new claimants, a quarter of those told they were fit to work appealed against the decision, and of those, more than a third had their appeal upheld.
Neil Coyle of the Disability Alliance prefers to get benefits right the first time
And Neil Coyle, of the Disability Alliance, believes the policy would hit the vulnerable. He prefers to get benefits right first time
Both Labour and the Conservatives believe that getting tough with benefit claimants goes down well with voters.
But if the consequence of reform is thousands of vulnerable individuals with long-term health conditions being treated unfairly, it’s a policy with built-in dangers.
Taken from BBC News