Counterblast: another case of old wine in new bottles? the coalition’s misguided strategy to reduce benefit fraud

Martin Tunley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Coalition recently published its first strategy aimed at reducing benefit and tax credit fraud (Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) 2010). This was preceded by the obligatory spin and rhetoric which accompanies any official announcement peddling the same message that ‘Benefit and tax cheats face new clampdown’ (Asthana 2010, p.1). Whilst refreshingly incorporating measures to tackle the spiralling losses caused by tax credit fraud, the overall impression given is yet another case of old wine in new bottles. This accusation is levelled on the basis that the main substance of the strategy is a recycling of the tactics used by the Tories during the ‘Thatcher years’. The feeling of de´ja` vu is also generated by an unsavoury undercurrent that this strategy is yet again aimed at the ‘undeserving scrounging poor’ (Cook 1989, p.127). Furthermore, similar to the triumphant unveiling of the Coalition’s plans, back in 1980, Social Security Minister, Reg Prentice, also sought to gain political mileage out of welfare fraud by launching ‘a big campaign’ (Donnison 1982, p.210). The accusation that benefit fraud policy in the 1980s procured public opinion and directed it against welfare recipients (Cook 1989, p.137) may also be levelled against the Coalition, which conveniently announced its benefit fraud strategy shortly before George Osborne unveiled the Spending Review. I suggest this was a calculated attempt to deflect the blame for the bleak times ahead away from the government and towards ‘fiddling’ impoverished welfare recipients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-317
Number of pages4
JournalThe Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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