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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 4040

(Question No. 4815)


Mr Tickner asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 17 October 1986:

(1) How many persons were in receipt of (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefits at some time in each financial year since 1980-81.

(2) What was the (a) average monthly number each year and (b) number at the end of each year of persons in receipt of (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefits.

(3) How many (a) convictions occurred and (b) persons were convicted in each year in relation to (i) unemployment and (ii) supporting parents benefit fraud.

(4) What was the (a) total and (b) average monthly amount paid in each year in respect of (i) unemployment and (ii) supporting parents benefits.

(5) What was the (a) total and (b) average monthly amount of overpayments each year in respect of (i) unemployment and (ii) supporting parents benefits.

(6) What was the total sum involved in successful prosecutions for (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefit fraud or abuse in each year.

(7) Does his Department have a lower limit or cut-off point with regard to decisions about whether to prosecute for unemployment and supporting parents benefits fruad; if so, what is that point.

(8) Does his Department have any estimate for each year of the total cost of fraud concerning (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefits where prosecutions were not made.

(9) How many departmental employees were involved in full time duties pursuing fruad or abuse of (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefits and what was the value of their salaries or wages in each year.

(10) How many additional staff were involved as part of their duties in pursuing fraud or abuse of (a) unemployment and (b) supporting parents benefits and what was the value of their salaries or wages in each year.

(11) What was the total value each year of (a) salaries and wages, (b) administrative, (c) computer and (d) legal costs incurred in the pursuit of (i) unemployment and (ii) supporting parents benefit fraud.

(12) Does his Department retain the Benefit Control Units set up under the Fraser Government; if so, what are the details of staff numbers and running costs for such units for each financial year since 1980-81.


Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Table 1-shows the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit and supporting parents benefit at some time in each financial year since 1980/81:

Table 1:

PERSONS IN RECEIPT OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORTING PARENTS BENEFIT, AUSTRALIA 1980-81 TO 1985-86.

Year ended

30 June

Unemployment

benefit

Supporting

parents

benefit

1981 ...

1,093,700

*...142,035

1982 ...

1,148,100

*...177,640

1983 ...

1,505,987

202,698

1984 ...

1,610,990

223,529

1985 ...

1,444,987

236,309

1986 ...

1,373,199

256,185

* Estimated

These figures have been derived by adding to the number of beneficiaries at the beginning of each year the number of new benefits granted during the year. Some of these numbers would relate to beneficiaries appearing on benefit more than once during the year. While it is not possible to measure precisely the extent of the duplication, the proportion of unemployment bene- ficiaries current at a given time during 1985-86 who had multiple benefit episodes (unemployment, sickness or special) during the preceding 12 months was about 24 per cent. Statistics showing the number of benefit episodes for supporting parents are not available.

(2) (a) Table 2 (i) shows the average monthly numbers of unemployment beneficiaries for the period 1980-81 to 1985-86. Average monthly figures for supporting parent beneficiaries are not available since statistics of supporting parent beneficiaries are compiled on a four-weekly basis for the end of the period. The four-weekly series are shown in table 2 (ii).

Table 2 (i):

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFICIARIES CURRENT-AUSTRALIA MONTHLY AVERAGES

1980-81

1981-82

1982-83

1983-84

1984-85

1985-86

1986-87

July ...

310,193

314,418

399,078

634,298

580,349

554,942

571,792

August ...

303,848

318,855

414,694

624,823

574,153

544,663

573,760

September ...

294,552

309,184

437,632

614,755

567,682

536,362

569,139

October ...

288,840

301,523

457,164

602,454

557,610

524,952

November ...

283,879

289,278

480,841

591,767

551,174

519,410

December ...

295,615

299,626

533,297

611,738

566,565

537,427

January ...

326,497

320,553

596,763

654,950

613,950

587,578

February ...

347,665

367,775

630,236

669,279

637,779

610,189

March ...

330,479

358,859

625,104

636,378

609,666

585,106

April ...

318,964

356,210

626,689

611,173

587,617

570,263

May ...

313,154

369,435

630,029

596,368

573,846

571,042

June ...

313,191

377,748

633,625

586,097

562,266

568,716

Table 2 (ii):

SUPPORTING PARENT BENEFICIARIES-AUSTRALIA 4 WEEKLY STATISTICS

Females

Males

Persons

1980-81

1.8.80 ...

67,633

3,889

71,522

29.8.80 ...

68,509

3,912

72,421

26.9.80 ...

69,404

3,949

73,353

24.10.80 ...

76,761

4,012

80,773

21.11.80 ...

86,299

4,268

90,567

19.12.80 ...

89,346

4,465

93,811

16.1.81 ...

91,452

4,513

95,965

13.2.81 ...

93,893

4,627

98,520

13.3.81 ...

96,365

4,729

101,094

10.4.81 ...

98,304

4,853

103,157

8.5.81 ...

99,540

4,913

104,453

5.6.81 ...

100,798

4,958

105,756

30.6.81 ...

101,583

5,048

106,631

1981-82

31.7.81 ...

102,961

5,138

108,099

28.8.81 ...

104,237

5,229

109,466

25.9.81 ...

105,584

5,323

110,907

23.10.81 ...

106,914

5,409

112,323

20.11.81 ...

108,330

5,469

113,799

18.12.81 ...

109,443

5,520

114,963

15.1.82 ...

110,812

5,582

116,394

12.2.82 ...

112,294

5,647

117,941

12.3.82 ...

113,976

5,675

119,651

9.4.82 ...

115,190

5,726

120,916

7.5.82 ...

116,398

5,819

122,217

4.6.82 ...

117,494

5,884

123,378

30.6.82 ...

118,019

5,923

123,942

1982-83

30.7.82 ...

118,849

6,046

124,895

27.8.82 ...

119,269

6,162

125,431

24.9.82 ...

119,857

6,265

126,122

22.10.82 ...

120,705

6,430

127,135

19.11.82 ...

121,713

6,616

128,329

17.12.82 ...

122,909

6,787

129,696

14.1.83 ...

124,129

6,955

131,084

11.2.83 ...

125,393

7,115

132,508

11.3.83 ...

126,905

7,235

134,140

8.4.83 ...

128,380

7,436

135,816

6.5.83 ...

129,615

7,576

137,191

3.6.83 ...

131,216

7,762

138,978

30.6.83 ...

132,358

7,870

140,228

1983-84

29.7.83 ...

133,401

7,990

141,391

26.8.83 ...

134,469

8,111

142,580

23.9.83 ...

135,286

8,207

143,493

21.10.83 ...

136,515

8,374

144,889

18.11.83 ...

137,717

8,440

146,157

16.12.83 ...

139,014

8,622

147,636

13.1.84 ...

139,875

8,721

148,596

10.2.84 ...

140,992

8,749

149,741

9.3.84 ...

141,929

8,729

150,658

6.4.84 ...

142,481

8,794

151,275

4.5.84 ...

142,965

8,788

151,753

1.6.84 ...

144,080

8,882

152,962

29.6.84 ...

144,680

8,909

153,589

1984-85

27.7.84 ...

144,959

8,911

153,870

24.8.84 ...

145,274

8,974

154,248

21.9.84 ...

146,180

9,069

155,249

19.10.84 ...

n.a.

n.a.

155,931

16.11.84 ...

147,950

9,201

157,151

14.12.84 ...

149,725

9,350

159,075

11.1.85 ...

n.a.

n.a.

160,442

5.2.85 ...

n.a.

n.a.

162,222

8.3.85 ...

154,375

9,513

163,888

5.4.85 ...

155,367

9,526

164,893

3.5.85 ...

156,709

9,631

166,340

31.5.85 ...

157,735

9,690

167,425

28.6.85 ...

158,281

9,736

168,017

1985-86

26.7.85 ...

159,030

9,726

168,756

23.8.85 ...

159,703

9,705

169,408

20.9.85 ...

160,384

9,743

170,127

18.10.85 ...

161,045

9,797

170,842

15.11.85 ...

161,620

9,798

171,418

13.12.85 ...

163,138

9,844

172,982

10.1.86 ...

164,085

9,917

174,002

7.2.86 ...

165,094

9,953

175,047

7.3.86 ...

165,615

9,985

175,600

4.4.86 ...

166,271

9,990

176,261

2.5.86 ...

166,505

10,059

176,564

30.5.86 ...

166,869

10,070

176,939

27.6.86 ...

166,660

10,070

176,730

(2) (b) The number of persons in receipt of unemployment and supporting parents benefit at the end of each year is shown in Table 3:

Table 3:

NUMBER OF PERSONS IN RECEIPT OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORTING PARENTS BENEFIT AT THE END OF EACH YEAR AUSTRALIA.

1980-81 to 1985-86.

Year Ended 30 June

Unemployment

beneficiaries

Supporting

females

Parent

males

Beneficiaries

total

1981 ...

314,500

e...101,583

5,048

106,631

1982 ...

390,664

118,019

5,923

123,942

1983 ...

635,002

132,358

7,870

140,228

1984 ...

584,506

144,680

8,909

153,589

1985 ...

561,400

158,281

9,736

168,017

1986 ...

569,761

166,660

10,070

176,730

Estimated

(3) (a) The number of cases for which convictions were obtained is set out below in the categories of unemployment benefit and supporting parents benefit for each of the years nominated. Statistics do not distinguish between convictions and persons convicted.

(i) UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT

Number of cases

for which

conviction

obtained

1980-81 ...

1,222

1981-82 ...

1,140

1982-83 ...

1,007

1983-84 ...

1,240

1984-85 ...

1,514

1985-86 ...

1,494

(ii) SUPPORTING PARENT BENEFIT

Number of cases

for which

conviction

obtained

1980-81 ...

146

1981-82 ...

217

1982-83 ...

227

1983-84 ...

277

1984-85 ...

324

1985-86 ...

325

(4) (a) Total expenditures for Unemployment Benefits and Supporting Parents' Benefits for 1980-81-1985-86 were as follows:

Unemployment

Benefits

$'000

1980-81 ...

995,748

1981-82 ...

1,224,343

1982-83 ...

2,248,980

1983-84 ...

2,912,314

1984-85 ...

2,981,118

1985-86 ...

3,122,120

Supporting

Parents

Benefits

$'000

1980-81 ...

412,399

1981-82 ...

605,864

1982-83 ...

727,735

1983-84 ...

889,595

1984-85 ...

1,066,199

1985-86 ...

1,237,959

(b) The average monthly payments for Unemployment Benefits and Supporting Parents for 1980-81-1985-86 were as follows:

Unemployment

Benefits

$'000

1980-81 ...

82,979

1981-82 ...

102,028

1982-83 ...

187,415

1983-84 ...

242,693

1984-85 ...

248,427

1985-86 ...

260,177

Supporting

Parents

Benefits

$'000

1980-81 ...

34,367

1981-82 ...

50,489

1982-83 ...

60,645

1983-84 ...

74,133

1984-85 ...

88,850

1985-86 ...

103,163

(5) (a) and (b) Set out below are the total yearly and average monthly amounts of overpayment debited and credited (ie reduction in amount outstanding) in the respective categories for each of the years nominated.

(i) UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT

Amount debited

Total

Monthly average

Amount credited

Total

Monthly average

$m

$m

$m

$m

1980-81 ...

8.22

0.68

6.53

0.54

1981-82 ...

9.50

0.79

6.82

0.57

1982-83 ...

17.09

1.42

9.83

0.82

1983-84 ...

27.02

2.25

16.18

1.35

1984-85 ...

26.60

2.22

18.58

1.59

1985-86 ...

32.45

2.70

25.78

2.15

(ii) SUPPORTING PARENTS BENEFIT

Amount debited

Total

Monthly average

Amount credited

Total

Monthly average

$m

$m

$m

$m

1980-81 ...

3.59

0.30

1.32

0.11

1981-82 ...

4.96

0.41

1.84

0.15

1982-83 ...

8.52

0.71

2.80

0.23

1983-84 ...

11.51

0.96

4.02

0.33

1984-85 ...

10.78

0.90

5.28

0.44

1985-86 ...

15.62

1.30

7.73

0.64

(6) (a) and (b) The statistics on prosecutions maintained by my department include details of amounts involved in the cases prosecuted but these are not divided into successful and unsuccessful prosecutions. An estimate of such amounts can be obtained by multiplying the number of successful prosecutions by the average amount of overpayment per case prosecuted. The relevant details are set out below.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT

Number of

cases for

which

conviction

obtained

Average

amount

per case

prosecuted

$

1980-81 ...

1,222

1,125

1981-82 ...

1,140

1,483

1982-83 ...

1,007

1,613

1983-84 ...

1,240

1,910

1984-85 ...

1,514

2,541

1985-86 ...

1,494

3,709

SUPPORTING PARENTS BENEFIT

Number of

cases for

which

conviction

obtained

Average

amount

per case

prosecuted

$

1980-81 ...

146

3,310

1981-82 ...

217

4,609

1982-83 ...

227

4,944

1983-84 ...

277

5,778

1984-85 ...

324

6,828

1985-86 ...

325

7,876

(7) No.

(8) (a) and (b) No.

(9) (a) and (b) Staff engaged full time on the detection and prosecution of fraudulent cases work in Benefits Control Sections. Staffing for these areas during the years in question is set out below. It is not possible to separate the figures between work on unemployment benefit cases, work on supporting parent benefit cases and work on any other type of payment.

$m

1980-81 ...

114

1.84

1981-82 ...

130

2.50

1982-83 ...

213

4.44

1983-84 ...

219

4.91

1984-85 ...

228

5.60

1985-86 ...

237

6.13

(10) (a) and (b) The Department of Social Security has 215 regional offices located in cities, suburbs and country districts around Australia. Staff in these offices would handle some aspect of fraud work from time to time but other than for field officers it is not possible to estimate the extent of such involvement. Field officers visit clients and either provide information to them or collect information from them about their current circumstances. A significant part of a field officer's duties over a 12 month period is concerned with cases of incorrect payment and a proportion of this relates to fraud. The number and salary costs of field officers for the years in question are set out below. Figures for field officers in Benefits Control areas are included in the answer to Question 9.

Number

Salaries

$m

1980-81 ...

375

4.85

1981-82 ...

386

5.94

1982-83 ...

424

7.07

1983-84 ...

513

9.20

1984-85 ...

574

11.28

1985-86 ...

559

11.56

(11) (a) to (d) It is not possible to specify salary, administrative, computer and legal costs associated with the combat of fraud.

(12) Yes. See answer to Question 9 for details of staffing numbers and salary for each of the years nominated; it is not possible to identify separately other costs applicable to the Benefits Control areas.