An evaluation of the FERIS initiative for the DWP

Overview

The Fraud and Error Reduction Incentive Scheme (FERIS) is a central government scheme designed to help local authorities to identify and reduce fraud and error in housing benefit (HB) claims. HB is a means-tested benefit, paid to people with a low income who pay rent. Overpayment through fraud and error was estimated at just over 5% and the aim was to ensure as much HB money as possible went to legitimate claimants.

Objectives

The overarching goal of this research was to assist the DWP in assessing the extent to which the FERIS1 scheme delivered on its objectives, and improve the design and administration of future rounds of FERIS. The research aimed to cover the two key dimensions of FERIS1:
• Process: how FERIS1 was implemented and what sort of activities it encouraged;
• Perceived impacts: how successful FERIS1 has been in achieving its aims and objectives of reducing fraud and error in HB, improving LA finances and positively effecting claimant behaviour.

Approach

The evaluation involved an online survey of Directors of Housing (achieving a response rate of 60%), a set of detailed case studies of local authorities involving interviewing employees and contractors and a detailed analysis of financial information, and a series of roundtable discussion events bringing together senior stakeholders from the DWP and representatives from local authorities and key outsourcing organisations.

Findings

The research indicated that local authorities believed FERIS had a positive impact on fraud and error in housing benefit. Also, FERIS led to more fraud and error related activities than would otherwise have taken place. LAs found the opt-in and bid processes easy, and there was good DWP support. The findings from our research have been used to inform the development of further phases of FERIS, and its successor scheme, the Right Benefit Initiative.

Recent case studies