Record year in hunt for benefit cheats: agency

The Swedish Social Insurance Agency has reported a record year in its hunt for benefit cheats, reclaiming 930 million kronor ($130 million) in stolen and saved benefits.

The agency’s work to combat fraud has led to repayment demands totalling 354 million kronor. Furthermore investigations have meant future savings of 577 million kronor from illegitimate or inflated claims, according to new statistics for 2009 published by the agency on Monday.

“During the year we have continued our investigative work by focusing on more complex benefits, such as sickness benefits, and sickness and activity compensation. These matters take longer to investigate, but generate higher repayment and savings amounts,” said Joakim Jarnryd, head of the control and quality department at the agency, in a statement.

In 2008 the total amount reclaimed and saved by the agency amounted to 560 million kronor.

While the figure for 2009 constitutes a new record in the agency’s hunt for those cheating Sweden’s generous system of social benefits, the number of people reported to police declined to 1,400 from 1,700 in 2008.

“The number of police reports has dropped because we have raised the quality and

accuracy of our work, it means that we are more precise and provide the police with stronger case material with which to work,” said Joakim Jarnryd.

The agency has introduced tighter checks on benefit recipients in recent years on instruction from the centre-right government keen to address a situation which had seen Sweden’s sick leave statistics soar away from the EU average.

The Local reported in early February Sweden no longer suffered the highest levels of sickness in Europe.

According to preliminary calculations from Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s sickness levels are now at around 2.4 percent of the working population after a steady decline since 2003, and are now below both Finland and Norway.

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