In the past decade, 10,897 people were caught receiving social benefits that they were not entitled to, a minister said on Monday. 

In 2012, 779 people were caught falsely claiming childcare, disability, and unemployment aid, which resulted in the government saving around €2.8 million. 

Last year, over 1,059 benefit fraudsters were caught. 

Between 2012 and 2022, the government saved around €41 million by catching benefits cheats, Social Justice Minister Michael Falzon said on Monday. 

“This is a different type of social justice which we do not speak enough about,” Falzon said. 

Those who cheat the welfare system to tap benefits they are not entitled to are guilty of "serious theft”, he said. 

“They are not only stealing money from the government, but they are also stealing from hard-working citizens who continuously contribute to our society.”

Abusing the welfare system is illegal in terms of the Social Security Act. Those who receive aid that they are not entitled to to can face an administrative fine and are also made to pay back one-and-a-half times the amount they received. 

They can also face up to one year in prison. 

In recent weeks, seventeen people were charged in court after falsely claiming epilepsy to claim state benefits. 

Another court case saw a man and woman to having falsified documents to receive an allowance for severe disability when they had none.

Falzon said the Business Intelligence Unit, which was set up in 2016, scrutinised all those applicants who apply for social benefits. 

“Between 2016 till 2022, 26,850 new applicants were made for these social benefits,” he said. 

He said around “50 per cent” of these applications had deficiencies with the information they provided. 

“Out of these 50 per cent, almost 50 per cent were rejected as they did not qualify for one reason or another for the benefits.”

The minister did not address a recent by the National Audit Office, which flagged serious concerns about the lax criteria applied when calculating eligibility for non-contributory benefits. 

Currently, the value of a person's home, any second or third properties they own and the value of their primary vehicle are not factored into eligibility calculations. 

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