The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data sharing exercise has been supported by local authorities for several decades now. It has an important place in counter fraud activities, as well as work to recover and reduce error and debt.
1. The National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data sharing exercise has been supported by local authorities for several decades now. It has an important place in counter fraud activities, as well as work to recover and reduce error and debt. The withdrawal of the adult social care data matching exercise from the NFI in 2020 was a disappointment to many local authorities. Some local authorities have instituted work arounds to replace some (but not all) of the information lost when the data matching was withdrawn, and therefore, the proposal to restore it to the NFI is welcome. We believe this will be helpful in addressing some significant areas of fraud risk for local authorities.
2. We appreciate that this consultation is from the part of Government responsible for the NFI exercise and it is therefore solely about NFI and that this limits the scope of what has been considered in the consultation. The NFI exercise is a useful backstop to detect fraud and error after the event, but it is by necessity backward looking and periodic. An alternative approach would be to undertake a more proactive exercise based on prevention. Local authorities already check against DWP records on a case-by-case basis for social care financial assessments and they also do the same with HM Land Registry records. They are only missing client capital asset data and self-assessment data from HMRC; this is currently being piloted with a small number of local authorities under the Digital Economies Act 2017 and we would urge that if the pilot is successful this is rolled out as quickly as possible.
3. We note that local authorities will incur an unavoidable cost with the introduction of the new data matching under NFI. We trust that this will be dealt with appropriately and understand that the first steps have been taken to assess it under the new burdens doctrine. An alternative and arguably better approach would be for the information to be freely available to local authorities. If the positive claims of fraud prevention to the overarching public purse as set out in the consultation document are accurate, then it is hard to see why local authorities should be charged. There are no charges for checking case-by-case records for social care financial assessments with DWP and we are not expecting any charges for accessing HMRC client capital asset data and self-assessment data under arrangements currently being piloted. It would therefore be logical for there to be no charge for the information provided under NFI.
4. We have also provided specific answers to the individual questions where this is appropriate.
Questions 1 to 4 are specifically aimed at individual local authorities and seek data from them.
Question 5. The NFI’s UK-wide data matching service supports financial efficiency through the generation of savings. (Strongly agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree / Disagree/ Strongly disagree / Other)
5. Agree. This is the view of many of our members and counter fraud specialists in the sector.
Question 6. Do you consider that there would be any individuals adversely impacted by the data matching (other than those committing fraudulent acts)?
Yes / No / Don’t know / Other (if other, please explain)
6. No or Don’t know. Our members have not highlighted any individuals who would be adversely impacted, and we believe it would be unlikely that any would be, but we do not have sufficient information to be sure. We do not believe this was a problem in the previous data matching exercise.
Question 7. Would the recommencement of adult social care data matching be a proportionate action as a means to help tackle fraud in adult social care? (Strongly agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree / Disagree/ Strongly disagree / Other)
7. Agree. The recommencement is supported by our member councils.
Question 8. Do you consider that the recommencement of adult social care data matching will maintain patient data protections? (Strongly agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree / Disagree/ Strongly disagree / Other)
8. Neither agree nor disagree. We are not close enough to the detail to comment on this.
Question 9. Do you consider there to be any non-legislative proposals that you believe would better target fraud than recommencing adult social care data matching?
9. See our general comments in paragraphs 4 to 6 above. We would also suggest liaison with those involved in social care financial assessments (for example the National Association of Financial Assessment Officers, NAFAO) and with counter fraud specialists in the sector, particularly Fighting Fraud and Corruption Locally.
Question 10. Do you have any further views regarding the expected outcomes of the proposals outlined in this consultation document?
10. No further comments.
Senior Adviser Finance
Phone: 079 2070 2354
Email: [email protected]