Department for Work and Pensions Accounts 2019–20 Contents


The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) is responsible for the delivery of work, welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. It serves over 20 million claimants and customers. In 2019–20, the Department spent £191.8 billion on benefit payments. Benefit payments are susceptible to both deliberate fraud by individuals, and unintended error by claimants and the Department. The Comptroller & Auditor General has qualified the Department’s accounts every year since 1988–89 due to material levels of fraud and error in benefit expenditure. The 2019–20 accounts were qualified for fraud and error in all benefits except State Pension, because State Pension, having relatively simple conditions of entitlement, has very low fraud and error. The overpayment rate was 4.8% (£4.5 billion) and the underpayment rate was 2% (£1.9 billion) across all the other benefits.

As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department’s benefit caseload increased significantly, for example, the number of people on Universal Credit increased from 2.9 million in February 2020 to 5.6 million in August 2020. It expects that this increase in caseload, alongside the fraud and error impact of relaxing some of its controls in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will lead to a further increase in losses to the taxpayer from benefit fraud and error in 2020–21.

Published: 18 November 2020