It is right that those who commit benefit fraud face tough penalties, but those who make innocent mistakes while trying to navigate the complex benefits system must not face the same punishment, Citizens Advice has said.
Responding to new charging standards for benefit and tax credit fraud set out by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer today, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Gillian Guy said:
"It's absolutely right that people stealing from the public purse face tough consequences. A prison sentence is an expensive punishment and it's clear that this is intended to be a deterrent first and foremost.
"Almost as much money is lost to error as is lost to fraud. It's crucial that people who suffer wrong payments due to innocent mistakes or confusion do not suffer unfairly as a result of these new penalties. The current benefits system is fiendishly complicated and many people face upheaval to their support due to reforms.
"Prosecutors must make sure that only fraudsters are punished and hard-up people who have made an innocent mistake are protected."