UK Government Plans Skills Boost for Public Sector Fraud Fight

The UK government has announced what it claims are ambitious plans to upskill public sector workers so they can better spot and stop fraud.

The new Counter Fraud Profession Strategy will be led by the Public Sector Fraud Authority (PSFA) announced late last year.

As well as hiring new talent, the government said it will upskill 7000 counter-fraud professionals, including training 250 fraud risk experts by the end of 2023.

A third pillar of the strategy will be a new Apprenticeship in Counter Fraud set to launch in 2024, which will run alongside the existing Fraud Investigation Apprenticeship.

“The challenge we face from fraud is stark. That is why I am proud to announce the launch of the updated Government Counter Fraud Profession Strategy, which will continue to enhance the capability and expertise of those fighting hard to protect taxpayers’ money,” said Cabinet Office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe.

Fraud represents a huge challenge across the UK, and the public sector is no different, with many crimes now cyber-enabled.

Some £8.6bn was lost to fraud and overpayments related to benefits during the financial year 2021–22, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The government’s COVID-19 relief fund schemes were also ruthlessly exploited by online fraudsters.

Over the two-year lifecycle of its two main initiatives – the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – the government estimates fraud may have reached £6.4bn.

However, separate findings from parliament’s public accounts committee suggests the figure could be more than double that, at £16bn.

The Government Counter Fraud Profession (GCFP) was launched in 2018 and now has 7000 members across 48 organizations including the police and local government.

However, with fraud against the public sector estimated at £33bn per year, it’s unclear whether the government’s new plans are ambitious enough.

Phil Taylor, a professional support lawyer at Kingsley Napley, said the PSFA’s £25m of funding may not be enough.

“It is widely considered that enforcing a common approach to tackling fraud is the most effective way to prevent people from falling victim to it. As fraud becomes increasingly present online, the UK’s approach needs to adapt to keep up. Through data analytics and information sharing, the PSFA seeks to flatten the curve and – it is hoped – have a bigger impact in responding to fraud,” he argued in a blog post.

“Only time will tell how effective this approach will really be. But what is clear is that, with unprecedented levels of fraud taking place across all sectors, the new authority faces a daunting task.”

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